Why Participating in the Redistricting Process is so Important

November 16, 2021
Community Conversations about Race on Community Redistricting with panelists Ed Sheffield, Anna Hort

Community Conversations about Race on Community Redistricting with panelists Ed Sheffield, Anna Horta, and Kirstyne Lange

Addison Smith

During its long-running tradition of monthly Facebook Live events, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County (CAP) hosted a Community Conversation to discuss how citizens can get involved in the redistricting process and why it’s so important to do so. The session was moderated by Anna Horta with Kirstyne Lange and Ed Sheffield, all members of the Sonoma County Advisory Redistricting Commission. 

One of the main questions asked by community members and the moderators was, “Why is the work of the committee so important? Horta said,”This is the first time a commission has been assembled this way: by bringing in a public opinion, allowing citizens to bring in maps to show redistricting -- community participation.” They want people to know just how important the task of redistricting a community is and it’s the first time this has happened ever for Sonoma County, so the community has a big sway in what happens when the census and redistricting starts to wrap up. Lange said, “When I moved back here just before the pandemic I started getting into engagement with the community and taking a step forward to be a part of the processes in a more formal way.” 

This process is extremely important for the wellbeing of the Sonoma County community, as it will shape future generations' lives. Redistricting uses data to ‘section off’ different areas of the community which can influence such things as: which schools children go to, county borders, elected supervisors, or where voting locations are accessed.It will dictate how certain generations meet and how they interact; it might completely change the course of their lives depending on how the lines are redrawn. This process only happens every 10 years when the census is done, so in order to ensure quality of life for its citizens, the community needs to gather together and push for change. The community needs to speak up and address how redistricting can help or harm them, everyone gets a voice in this process so they need to let their voices be heard. 

One of the main reasons for this Q&A is to show the community just how important this monumental decision is. Anna Horta said, “...it (redistricting) allows for the community to have the opportunity to open the door and voice our needs. The people we select impact our lives in so many ways: What school we can go to, what sidewalks we use, etc… The changes are taking hold for ten years, focusing on the process itself and how we can make a difference and to find the places where we can go to make our voices heard.” These changes are huge and impact so many different aspects of lives within the lines and the community should be able to help influence this decision as it affects them the most. 

Another big question that was brought up by community members was how this would affect communities of color within Sonoma County, would it help or harm them? Kirstyne Lange said, “I certainly would say this process and this collective push to really define what equity means really changes the scope of what to push for in community engagement…when we say ‘the model is equity lets do it equitably’...We don’t really have one area where we can point and say our African-American community lives there, etc….Having a group of people now really helps push information out there and helps give people a voice” Ed Sheffield, a North Bay Governmental Relations Manager and elected Santa Rosa School Board Trustee member said, “I was the token person of color representing a group who would check a box for ‘diversity’. I feel like now our representation has grown even at the city council level.” in response to the question about people of color. 

They ended the presentation with community questions wherein community members had the opportunity to ask panelists via the live chat questions about this process and other similar questions. Ed Sheffield mentioned that input will continue to be calculated into redistricting plans, so if a member of the community can still contact the committee (linked above) and send in feedback it will be factored into planning. The reason it’s so Important to receive feedback on the maps they are looking at is because it’s important to let them know whether you're for or against the redistricting, which is the process done through census numbers.  Learning about the process was intriguing and informative, as I wasn’t fully aware that community input would even be considered in something like this. The idea that community members can help change lives for the better within their community is such a powerful tool. That tool, I believe, means everyone should get involved in the process however they can. If you would like to get involved with the process at any point, you can follow updates and submit community-advised redistricting maps through here.