Across California, agencies ranging from cities to school districts are embarking on the 2021 redistricting process. Renne Public Law Group (RPLG) has partnered with geographic information systems and data analytics consultants FLO Analytics (FLO) to guide local agencies through the intricate process.
Every 10 years, local governments use new data from the Census to redraw their district boundaries to reflect how local populations have changed. State law requires cities and counties to engage community members in the redistricting process by holding public hearings and reaching out to the public, including underrepresented and non-English-speaking communities. The finalized maps will define the district borders of a given agency for the next decade.
Redistricting in 2021 is trickier than it was ten years ago. The delayed release of Census data as a result of COVID-19 requires public agencies to meet tightened deadlines, which may change again before redistricting is complete. AB 849 established new redistricting criteria, altering the standards by which district maps must be drawn. The shifting deadlines and updated legal requirements complicate an already difficult process. Ensuring an agency is following requirements related to timelines, deliverables and public engagement is more important than during any prior redistricting round.
Redistricting work is a delicate balancing act, as agencies must strive to meet all criteria outlined in federal, state and local laws at once. Any deviation from redistricting criteria should be justifiable in reference to testimony, deliberation or other evidence in the record of the redistricting process kept by the agency. One of the most legally challenging features of the redistricting process involves balancing compliance with the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a federal statute. While the 14th Amendment prohibits significant reliance on race in the redistricting process, the VRA requires it under certain circumstances. Redistricting agencies must be extremely cautious about how and when they use racial data in the redistricting process.
The partnership between FLO and RPLG, who first joined forces on behalf of the City of Lincoln as well as Plumas County, allows agencies to meet the requirements of map drawing with the necessary legal guidance. After FLO’s experienced GIS and data analysts guide the agency through the iterative process of public engagement, modeling and updating boundaries, RPLG reviews the maps to ensure all legal requirements are met prior to adoption.
“Redistricting involves a lot of legal complexities, and RPLG is glad to provide experienced counsel on this issue,” said RPLG Partner Ryan McGinley-Stempel. “Ensuring agencies meet their legal requirements through a transparent process is just one way we can help the greater community.”
RPLG practices throughout California, advising and advocating for public agencies, nonprofit entities, individuals and private entities in need of effective, responsive and creative legal solutions.