The “3 E’s”: Engage – Educate – Empower
Redistricting is an odd and complicated topic. Simply posting a standard hearing notice is not going to turn out a crowd.
It is often hard to get residents interested in redistricting, especially at the local government level. In our experience, messaging from trusted sources is vital to capturing the public’s attention. NDC offers templates for all types of communications including social media posts, op-ed columns, flyers, postcards and newspaper advertisements, and we offer guidance on what outreach will work with your community and budget. And NDC can provide key messaging and talking points for jurisdiction staff and elected leaders to use in your regular communications with residents to encourage, and then educate them on this process.
Once engaged, residents tend to come to this issue having heard only the rhetoric of ‘no holds barred’ gerrymandering battles at the national level. Local redistricting is an entirely different set of goals, motivations, considerations and rules. NDC’s particular expertise is in calming the emotions, informing the public, and guiding engaged residents toward offering constructive input and ideas for your jurisdiction’s project. The rules are complicated, and California’s rules for redistricting vary greatly depending on what type of jurisdiction (county, city, school, or special district) is involved.
Redistricting offers a nearly-unprecedented opportunity: instead of simply asking residents whether they support or oppose a proposal, NDC offers tools that will let the residents personally draw the map themselves. Our tools break the limits that only enable residents with the time to sit through hours of meetings in person, and get the tools out where they can do the most good: in the neighborhood organizations away from the sometimes-distracting controlled forum of the jurisdiction. Neighborhood associations, community organizations, high school classes, or anyone else interested can use NDC’s tools to draw population-balanced maps that meet legal requirements and reflect the needs and goals of the jurisdiction.
NDC recognizes that residents have different comfort levels with technology, and different levels of jurisdiction-wide interest. For those who want the ultimate control over the details of their maps, NDC offers powerful, if complicated, online mapping tools. For those who do not wish to undertake the learning curve necessary for those tools but comfortable with Microsoft Excel, NDC offers a paper-map-and-Excel combination where the resident works out the lines on the paper map and Excel calculates the demographics. And for those who do not want to use a computer at all, of course there is a purely paper-based tool that still enables residents to draw population-balanced maps that make sense for their community.
Of course there is a concern about ‘too much of a good thing.’ NDC has successfully engaged, educated and empowered some client jurisdictions to the point where residents submit 15, 30, 40 or 50 maps, and that is where NDC’s experience really shines, as we know how to review and group community submissions to efficiently review and narrow the pool of maps down to the three to five that capture the goals of all the map authors and enable residents, staff and elected officials to focus on the key decisions that need to be made to arrive at a final map.
Typically NDC clients can guide a jurisdiction from 40 resident-drawn draft maps to two to five “focus” maps with just one community forum and one official hearing.