The parameters of Wards 2, 7 and 8 must be modified to meet federal requirements, D.C. Council members said in the first Council Redistricting Subcommittee hearing on April 25. The city’s population grew by 5.2 percent since the 2000, totaling 601,723 in 2010. Ward 2 has nearly 80,000 residents with Wards 7 and 8 below the federal requirement.

The redistricting committee, co-chaired by at-large Councilman Michael Brown, must divide the city into eight “compact and contiguous” wards, according to the DC Official Code. The model size for each ward is 75,215 with a plus or minus 5 percent deviation from that total, meaning each ward should include between 71,455 and 78,976 people.

“Boundaries for the wards must change,” said Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who co-chairs the redistricting committee. And it may be a difficult process, he said. “Redistricting makes people very angry.”

Traditionally, redistricting has been controversial, as some neighborhoods want to maintain their identity and be represented by people they have elected, such as their ANC commissioner or councilmember. Residents in lower-income neighborhoods such as Wards 7 and 8 want more residents, but fear the stigma of poverty and homelessness in those areas will impact the decision, which Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, D-Ward 8, said should be stopped.

Barry called the District a racially, geographically and economically disheveled city and said Ward 8 is usually a “dumping ground for the poor and most vulnerable citizens” of D.C. Ward 8 had the lowest population totaling 70,712.

“We should use redistricting to address the lack of diversity in Ward 8,” Barry told the AFRO. “Moving the Ward 8 boundaries into Ward 6 will give us greater economic and racial diversity. That is what I’m aiming for.”

Members told witnesses that university students and D.C. jail inmates were part of the count. But some expressed concerns that certain wards were over-counted and undercounted. “African Americans and Latinos have traditionally been undercounted,” Barry said. The Hispanic population has grown by nearly 22 percent, and even though the African-American population remains the largest, there was a 9.3 decrease in population.

Joy Phillips, the associate director of the State Data Center, said there were hard-to-count (HTC) citizens, which include those who were unemployed, homeless or impoverished, who were uncounted. Barry argued that a majority of his residents were HTC and less than 100 percent of residents were surveyed, which makes the count disproportionate.

“We did everything possible,” Councilman Brown said. Brown added that the committee, in conjunction with the Census Bureau, traveled to grocery stores, metro stops and knocked on doors to get D.C. residents to fill out census forms.

Phillips said the Census Bureau expected a “drop in participation” among D.C. residents. However, the Census saw an influx of participation in D.C. –72 percent participation in 2010 compared to 69 percent in 2000.

The subcommittee is expected to submit a report to the full Council by June. And the city is expected to have a full-scale redistricting plan by the end of the year.

 

Erica Butler

AFRO Staff Writer