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Fremont Redistricting Hearings

We have published a lot of articles concentrated on the topic of redistricting, but now we come to focus on our little niche in Fremont. Public hearings are your chance to interact and voice any concerns regarding redistricting to the Fremont City Council. Here we summarize the history of districts in Fremont as well as any notable updates in the past two redistricting hearings.

Illustrated by Kayla

By Daniel Gong, Faith Qiao



History is the best vantage point to contextualize the present. Fremont officially formed districts after receiving a letter on February 15, 2017 that stated the city violated the California Voting Rights Act by having voting at large instead of districts. So, in June 2017, the council passed the ordinance approving districts, and districts were first used to elect 4 councilmembers in 2018 for districts 1,2,3, and 4. Later, in November 2020, districts 5 and 6 had elections for their council members as well. Now, with the 2020 census data, Fremont is looking to redraw districts for the November 2022 elections.

As a way to increase district transparency, Fremont has created a timeline around redistricting so the public knows how the process is going, which can be found at Fremont will hold four public hearings and a community workshop before adopting the final map by April 17, 2022. According to the Fair Maps Act, all cities in California need to hold 4 public hearings before coming up with a final district map: 1 before map drafts, 2 after map drafts, and 1 choice. The goal of this act was to encourage residents to participate in the redistricting process as well as provide input for what from current districts should be preserved.

There are four public hearings with two more to come. Residents can participate, interact with the council, and voice concerns regarding the topic of redistributing. Residents can also draw their own maps for redistricting, and this process is gone over in the hearings.

While the third and fourth public hearings have not occurred yet, important information about Fremont’s redistricting process has already been revealed in the first two hearings. First, the city is being assisted by the National Demographic Corporation (NDC) as a third party to help the city in drawing maps and following timeline requirements. The public hearings went over the requirements for the redistricting process on the federal, state, and local level. On a federal level, city districts must have a similar population with only 10% deviance allowed, must follow the Federal Voting Rights Act, and must not be drawn with racial gerrymandering in mind. On the state level, cities must create districts that have contiguity, minimize division of neighborhoods and communities of interest, create easily identifiable boundaries, maintain compactness, and not favor any political party. Of the above listed points, the two most confusing ones are what communities of interest and compact districts entail. According to the state of California, communities of interest are communities that have shared traits that make it better for them to be in one district for more equal representation. For instance, some factors to be considered are school zones, if there are common issues faced by a community, and natural dividing lines. In Fremont, public hearings encourage citizens to come forth and list what they find as communities of interest, and citizens can also submit what they find as communities of interest on the city of Fremont’s redistricting website. As for compactness, this means that districts can not bypass a close community for one further away. This means no long arms in or such on districts, and this results in districts usually resembling a geometric shape. As for Fremont’s ideals, Fremont wants to minimize changes in the election cycle, preserve the core of existing districts, and anticipate future growth.


The Hearings itself

After the city goes through the list, the city opens the floor for input from the public. Residents are given a three minute window to express themselves. Daniel questioned whether school district lines would be drawn according to Fremont’s district. The reorganization of districts could also result in the reorganization of school areas to better distribute students among the different schools. Some students who may have been in the school area for one high school may be put into another high school after the redistricting. This concern was widely echoed by Fremont residents, as the council mentioned in the second hearing that they received many emails about concerns regarding school district changes.

Kelly Aubre says that the current district map is gerrymandered pointing to how districts 2 and 3 have jagged borders to allow council members who live near each other to run for different districts. By manipulating the borders, certain candidates who may not have been able to win are likely to win and gain the position. This is unfair for the other candidates running and for the citizens whose votes are wasted in the predetermined election. The representatives elected will not be able to truly reflect the voices of the citizens in a gerrymandered district map and certain races and ideas may be suppressed. Aubre reiterates his disappointment in the maps drawn, discussing how the maps stretch the definition of contiguous. He also dives into how a map drawn in 2017 can fix the border of districts 2 and 3, which is something the council said they were struggling with.

Something unique to the second meeting was that the council and NDC went over the maps proposed and the population deviation for the maps. At the time, there was one map proposed by the NDC to minimize population change, 1 map without the population deviance being under 10%, 2 incomplete maps, and 3 completed maps. Out of the proposed maps many consider changing the Niles area from district 4 to district 2. The council also raised many questions regarding district 5, as the warm springs area is currently unoccupied, but with many moving in soon, the predicted population would impact the population deviation of the map. However, as Mr. Kelly Aubre mentions in his concerns during the public hearing part, this data should not be considered at all, as districts should be drawn strictly based on the 2020 census data.

There are two remaining public hearings before the council and commissioners finalize the district maps for the next ten years. In all honesty, these districts strictly impact the elected council within the city having little implication on the state and federal level. It is, however, a chance for all those interested to speak for yourself on a topic that does have an effect on your democratic participation.

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