Council wrestles with district boundaries

THE PROCESS of converting from at-large city council elections to by-district voting advanced Wednesday with the another public hearing at the Westminster City Council (Shutterstock).

“It’s a big challenge. Good luck with it,” said one of the speakers at Wednesday’s public hearing on selecting district maps for the Westminster City Council.

Working against a deadline of Jan. 9, city leaders are holding hearings and community meetings to select the boundaries for replacing the current at-large voting system with a council chosen from four districts, with the mayor selected at-large.

Four speakers addressed the council on the nine maps submitted by the public and the consultant, National Demographics Corporation of Glendale.

After hearing from the public and the consultant, the council decided to ask for one more map, a revision to an existing proposed map that would move the Liberty Park neighborhood, as requested by Councilmember Sergio Contreras.

Justin Levitt, vice president of NDC, pointed out the factors influencing the creation of the four districts which must satisfy the requirements of the state and federal voting rights legislation.

The map finally selected must create districts that have roughly equal populations, be contiguous and not be too lopsided in terms of grouping a district with one ethnic group.

Levitt told the council that “packing a group” into a certain district or districts would be met with skepticism by the courts. “The Supreme Court has thrown out maps in four states” on that basis, he said.

Another factor complicating the drawing of maps includes the unincorporated community of Midway City, which stands astride the western and eastern portions of Westminster.

If no more maps are submitted, the council can hold its final required public hearing on Dec. 11, and schedule a vote on Dec. 18 for adoption. If another map emerges, another public hearing would be required, pushing final adoption into January 2020. A special meeting of the council would be required to meet the Jan. 9 deadline.

Once a map is adopted, two districts would hold their elections in 2020, with the other two in 2022.


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