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Every ten years, after receiving an updated U.S. Census count, local jurisdictions that elect their representatives by district as opposed to at-large reestablish district boundaries. The City of Hanford must reestablish city council district boundaries, creating council districts that are balanced in population and in accordance with local, state, and federal laws that govern the redistricting process.
The standard for reapportionment of congressional districts is that such districts must be equal in population “as nearly practicable,” with the phrase “as nearly as is practicable” defined to mean “a good faith effort to achieve precise mathematical equality.” However, for local redistricting plans, some divergence from the equal population rule is constitutionally permissible if the disparity is caused by legitimate considerations incidental to the effectuation of a rational state policy. Relatively minor deviations from mathematical equality in state or local electoral districts are constitutionally permissible as long as there is “substantial equality” in population between districts. While there is no absolute bright line rule regarding the permissible amount of population deviation, a total deviation below 10% presumably meets the “substantial equality” standard. The total deviation is measured between the highest population district and the lowest population district.
A community of interest is a contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits electoral practices that are “not equally open to participation by the members of a (racial, color, or language minority) in that its members have fewer opportunities than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” Thus, the Voting Rights Act can be violated by either intentional discrimination in the drawing of district lines or by a facially neutral redistricting plan that has the effect of diluting minority votes.
“Cracking" is the splitting of a geographically compact minority population among two or more districts, thereby reducing the group’s ability to elect a representative in any district.
“Packing” is the dilution of minority group voting strength by improperly placing more minority voters into a district than is necessary to elect a representative of their choice.