Redistricting is complete. For more than six months, EPIC has asked for your help in testifying before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, our non-partisan and citizen-led commission charged with redrawing political maps for Congress as well as the state Assembly and Senate. We wanted to keep legislative districts that melded together the North Coast to help ensure that environmental voters in our region had a strong voice. We also worked to help uplift the interests of the Karuk Tribe, who advocated for moving their ancestral territory together with coastal communities given their interest in protecting salmon fisheries. Over 500 of you sent in unique messages to the Commission, or 1/10th the total number of emails they received. WOW! And dozens more of you provided live public comment.
Your efforts paid off. The final legislative maps are in, the North Coast has been kept together and the North Coast’s 2021-2031 legislative maps look similar to their 2011-2021 iterations. Unfortunately, the Karuk Tribe’s testimony was not heeded and the majority of its ancestral territory continues to be drawn with largely salmon-less inland northern California.
Keeping the North Coast together was not a given. The Del Norte Board of Supervisors, the Del Norte County Republican Party and Democrats in inland counties made a strong play to create east/west unified Northern California legislative districts, pulling Del Norte, Trinity and Humboldt Counties eastward to join Shasta, Siskiyou and Modoc counties. (Somewhat curiously, the Republicans wanted out because the North Coast was too liberal for their liking and the inland Democrats wanted us because we were more liberal and could create a more “purple district.”) Go figure. This partisan play had some champions on the Redistricting Commission and there was an 11th hour attempt to redraw maps. Thankfully, the wealth of public comment from you helped to blunt this effort to draw partisan districts.
You did such a good job that statewide commentators took notice. Redistricting Partners, a private consulting firm that advises governments on redistricting, took notice of all the comments coming from the North Coast and highlighted the large number of commentators advocating for the North Coast to stay together. As they summarized the comments: “In the community of interest testimony submitted for this region over the summer, residents of both the inland east and western coastal counties saw it the same way. In a region known for its wide-open spaces between communities – there isn’t a single incorporated city in Trinity County, for example -- the Klamath Range really is the redwood partition: coastal vibes.”
I am also supremely proud of how EPIC’s members spoke out for the Karuk Tribe. The Tribe’s ancestral territory centers around the Klamath River and the Tribe’s enrolled members primarily live in Siskiyou, Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity Counties. Because the Tribe is split across multiple legislative districts, its ability to affect politics is reduced by the way maps are drawn. Given the state of the Klamath and their legacy as environmental champions, empowering the Karuk is one of the most important things we can do to help the environment. Again, your testimony on behalf of the Karuk Tribe was noticed by those paying attention to the process.
Unfortunately, the Redistricting Commission did not address the Karuk Tribe’s request. In calls for reform of the California redistricting process, addressing the concerns of tribal governments should be given top priority. As sovereign governments within the State of California, tribal governments should have a separate process and a louder voice in the process. It is unfair to have tribal chairpersons wait in a queue to give a three minute public comment on behalf of their nation. The redistricting process should mirror other areas of state law, where tribes have a unique “government-to-government” relationship.
Legislative redistricting is not “normal” for EPIC — it is a once-a-decade exercise — and we are so thankful to have your support. Enjoy these maps for the next ten years. We’ll come knocking after the next census again for your help.