It has been almost a year in the making the redesigning of district lines in Santa Barbara County thanks to U.S Census data.
“We have more information about where people live, where US citizens live as well as where different groups of people live within a community that triggers a new round of redistricting,” explained Clayton Nall, a political science professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Organizations such as the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) worked around the clock to make sure indigenous communities were included in the U.S Census.
“In Santa Maria, specifically counting our indigenous community in the census meant we were going to get more funding for our schools, our hospitals, our roads,” said Vanessa Teran, a policy and communications associate at MICOP.
The County of Santa Barbara Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission held a virtual hearing on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, that went on for more than four hours to narrow down map options. This is an important process that comes down to ethnic representation.
“We come from undocumented families, farmworkers," said Dalia Garcia, who works as a Tequio Youth Group Leader at MICOP in Santa Maria. “In order for us to understand better how to understand indigenous families, we know what it means to be indigenous and how that plays in the system meaning that we still have a lot of discrimination.”
The reimagining district lines must be carefully made to ensure communities are not left out.
“In the Latinx we have a big population of indigenous communities, which have different necessities in generalization of Latinx communities,” explained Garcia, who is also of Mixteco heritage. “We need more programs with language access or more resources for all our families.”
Among the top options are map 408b, 821B and 822, but there is still a longer list of map that is being considered.
Organizations such as MICOP and CAUSE would like to see Guadalupe and Santa Maria within the same district.
“For the first time we would have working-class communities together: farmworking community, an indigenous community who resides in Guadalupe and Santa Maria,” added Teran.
During the meeting, several community members expressed concerns over losing Latinx representation in other districts, and that is one of the hardest things the commission must address to avoid segregation.
“How do we ensure that that group actually has an opportunity to elect its members," said Nall. “One way that they may be denied to elect people from that community, would be if you drew the district lines in a way that chopped off the predominantly Latino neighborhoods, so that Latinos were only a minority in different districts.”
After the mapping phase comes to an end, the next goal for MICOP is to encourage community members to run for office and to vote.
“A representative to sit on the district that reflects the community,” said Teran. ‘We have never had a Latino representative in those districts but maybe this could be the first time.
There are still a couple more meetings left to decide on a final map. The next public hearing will be on Nov. 22, 2021 and each commissioner has to have two or three final maps.
The goal for the commission is to select and vote on a final map on Dec. 8, 2021.
For a full list of maps and meeting dates, click here.