Every ten years, the US Census triggers a wave of redistricting activities as states, counties, cities and special districts revisit their district boundaries and make adjustments for population changes. The 2020 Census cycle of redistricting activity was particularly demanding for two reasons. First, due to the COVID pandemic, the data arrived late from the Census to agencies, compressing the redistricting process. Second, laws like the California Voting Rights Act have dramatically increased the number of local government agencies that have shifted to district-based elections, creating a subsequent dramatic increase in the need for demography services.
As California’s largest demographer, National Demographics Corporation (NDC) found itself working aggressively to rise to these twin challenges and deliver for over 220 state, county, city, school district, community college district and special district clients during the redistricting cycle.
For NDC President Douglas Johnson, PhD., this was his fourth redistricting cycle:
“NDC dramatically ramped up its team of professionals from four to fifteen people in 2020. We knew that no matter who we hired, we had training to get done, but we focused on people with experience working directly with elected officials, strong experience in local government, and a deep understanding of how to address several simultaneous projects,” noted Dr. Johnson. “I am so proud of what our team accomplished and the significant impact we made across California and beyond. I can take a long drive and literally pass through fifteen client agencies in a single day. NDC redrew a lot of California.”
The NDC team expanded with the additions of retired city clerks, retired school superintendents, Ph.D. candidates in geography, and political science professors who were ready to put to work their experience working with elected officials and guiding sometimes-contentious public hearings.
NDC’s work in California could be found in big and small agencies. For example, the Los Banos City Council concluded its redistricting process by voting to adopt a community-generated map, Draft Map B, as the new Council district boundary map on February 2, 2022. NDC closely collaborated with the City’s special legal counsel, a public outreach firm, and the County to smoothly complete the redistricting process. The work included project management, map drawing, consulting with city staff, presenting at public hearings, gathering community feedback, and managing content on a project website.
The County of Santa Barbara faced its first redistricting by a citizen-independent redistricting commission. Formed by a 2018 citizen initiative, the eleven-person commission was supported by NDC. NDC’s staff provided demography services, project management services, and commission clerk services. It was a demanding project that saw dozens of hearings and workshops conducted in-person, online, and in a hybrid mix across Santa Barbara County. The diverse demographics and politics of the County created a sometimes challenging process, but with NDC’s assistance, the Commission arrived at a unanimous final vote.
NDC presents a unique value to clients: a stellar record of redistricting since 1979 that comes with an unmatched experience that informs an effective process and mitigates risk for all involved. NDC understands the legal underpinnings of the redistricting process, and the political pitfalls that can trip up a smooth and effective redistricting process. City attorneys partner with and trust NDC to understand relevant election code provisions that matter most to the redistricting process.
While the window on redistricting activity is nearly closed for this 2020 Census cycle, NDC’s work in districting will continue with new agencies that are shifting to district elections. NDC will remain actively involved in legislative and legal matters related to the Fair Maps Act and the California Voting Rights Act so that when the 2030 Census rolls around, the team is even more prepared to deliver for hundreds of clients.
For a complete list of NDC’s clients, follow this link.