County supervisors this morning will decide how to divvy up their five districts for future elections but some of the suggested maps raise concern that “slivers” too small to support precincts will force some residents to become absentee voters whether they want to be or not.
Slivers are small areas where one district’s lines pass near another set of lines like a city border or congressional district. The result are precincts too tiny to justify staffing on Election Day so residents are required to vote by mail.
The state’s congressional districts are too large for any supervisorial district to mirror, according to National Demographics Corporation which submitted a 12-page summary of the plans to the board for consideration.
One attempt to avoid slivers is the so-called “precinct cleanup” map which is among the designs coming before the board Tuesday morning although not on the recommended short list.
Supervisor Warren Slocum, a member of the remapping advisory committee and the former chief elections officer of the county, said he asked for the cleanup map because slivers can be important in the overall cost and turnout of an election.
“Boundaries don’t follow straight lines and you get these pockets that can be confusing. For example, two people can be on different sides of the same street but they will be at different polling places,” Slocum said.
Slocum said he’s asked the registrar to look at the maps to make sure the new lines don’t create problems come Election Day.
The board can consider any of the maps suggested throughout months of meetings and workshops but the nine-person advisory committee is recommending three as preferable. The trio include the “community unity 4” plan which leaves northern District Five intact as a majority-minority Asian district and lumps into District Four Redwood City, East Palo Alto, east Menlo Park and North Fair Oaks. The map is favored by the backers of the voters’ rights lawsuit that propelled the boundary changes. The other two maps are the Republican Party-submitted “equity” map and the Nakamura 1G map. Both maps move Redwood Shores from District Three to District Four and split Menlo Park between the two districts.
The county is redrawing the map to both settle the lawsuit and because voters last November approved changing the charter to allow district elections. The new system requires that only voters within one of five specific districts can elect a supervisor who must also hail from that same district. Previously, voters countywide elected all five supervisors even though each lived and represented a specific district.
The challenges of drawing new lines included trying to keep cities intact while keeping population equal and weighing other facts like race and socioeconomics.
National Demographics Corporation is currently reviewing the three preferred plans for potential federal Voting Rights Acts risks and, according to its summary, no problems have been found as of its writing.
More information on the proposed district maps and process is available at www.smcdistrictcommittee.org.
The Board of Supervisors meets 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8 in Board Chambers, 400 County Government Center, Redwood City.