This week Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting held two public hearings in the Council Chamber. According to federal law, the District must perform a redistricting of its eight Wards within 90 days of the Council’s receipt of the Census report, which happens every ten years. This year we have to complete our work by July 14. After the Ward redistricting process is complete, the Council will review and make adjustments to the boundaries of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and Single Member Districts (SMDs), both slated for this fall, with the entire process wrapping up by the end of the year.
In my 20 years on the Council, there is no issue I have encountered that evokes a stronger emotional reaction than redistricting. There are two primary approaches the Council could take in reviewing the Ward boundaries. One, to move as few people as possible within the outskirts of the legal parameters we face would attempt to minimize the disruption to the extent we can. Another, to move each ward as close to the mean as possible with the rationale that it is not fair to have Wards 7 and 8 as the lowest populated Wards in the District. There is no way to make everyone happy in the redistricting process, but my goal will be to maintain and reunite neighborhoods when possible, making use of census tract lines, natural boundaries and major traffic arteries to create logical Ward borders within the framework imposed on us by federal law.
The average population of all the Wards of the city is 75,215, based on a total District population of 601,723. When divided by eight, this creates a “target,” or benchmark number for the Council to use in determining necessary changes in boundary lines. The minimum allowable population per ward is 71,455, and the maximum population 78,976. According to the Census data, this means that Ward 2 must lose at least 939 residents to be within the statutory requirements, or as many as 4,700 residents to get to the average population. In contrast, Ward 7 must gain at least 386 residents or 4,137, to get to the target. Ward 8 must gain at least 742 residents at minimum or 4,503 to get to the target number. With regard to SMDs, the target size is 2,000, with an ideal number of 301 SMDs. The minimum population for an SMD is 1,900, and the maximum population 2,100.
The process is far from complete. We heard from a number of witnesses this week and will continue to consider input received electronically or by mail in the coming days, before introducing a plan for mark-up in the next several weeks. After the mark-up, the Subcommittee on Redistricting will hold a third hearing to receive public input on the plan, prior to its review by the full Council. I invite all residents to participate in this process and to visit our redistricting website at DCCouncil.us/Redistricting2011, which has important information about the redistricting process.