The first of a series of public hearings to redraw boundary lines for Palm Desert’s two voting districts will be held Thursday during the regular council meeting.
Council members will hear from staff and demographer Matthew Richardson with Best Best & Krieger law firm about the process for re-mapping the districts, and residents will be able to say what they think should be considered when redrawing the boundaries.
Thursday’s virtual council meeting starts at 4 p.m. and can be livestreamed from the city’s website, cityofpalmdesert.org, by click the “Council Agenda” link at the top of the home page. The agenda lists three options for participating in the meeting with public comments: in writing or verbally via Zoom or telephone on Thursday.
The city moved to a two-district system in 2020 as part of a settlement agreement with two Palm Desert women who sued the city in 2019, saying the at-large voting system went against the mandates of the California Voting Rights Act.
The voting rights act requires that cities switch to districts, grouping “communities of interest” to ensure that protected minorities have a better chance for representation.
Boundaries must be reconfigured every 10 years, based on new census figures.
District 1, called the “Civic Center Core District,” is the smallest of Palm Desert’s two districts, currently encompassing about 18.1% of the city’s estimated 51,317 residents.
The district needs to encompass 18.4% to 21.6% of the city’s current population – or 163 to 1,800 more residents than currently reside within the boundaries, Richardson told council members in December.
District 1 has one representative elected every four years, while the larger District 2 has four representatives elected at-large – two every two years.
One of the plaintiffs, Karina Quintanilla, now serves as the council representative for District 1. She was elected to her first four-year term in November 2020.
Community workshop Jan. 20
The city is also holding a community workshop at 6 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Palm Desert Community Center, next to the YMCA at Civic Center.
The workshop will offer residents a chance to learn about and provide feedback on the redistricting process and learn how to use the map-making feature on the city’s website.
All who attend must wear a face covering, as required by the state and county health departments.
The city must hold the meeting in person for those who do not have ready access to online meetings, city spokesman Thomas Soule said.
The city is also working on an option for the public to attend the meeting online, in response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, Soule said.
As soon as that information is finalized, it will be posted on the city’s redistricting website, MapPalmDesert.org, which is where all information about the mapping process can be found, he said.
Ask The Desert Sun: What question would you like us to answer?
Recordings of all redistricting meetings and workshops also will be posted on MapPalmDesert.org, as well as key dates and answers to frequently asked questions, Soule said,
Other key dates for the redistricting process:
Jan. 27: A second public hearing during the council’s 4 p.m. meeting. Demographers will use public and council input to draft maps based on council and public input.
Feb. 24: Third public hearing, held at 6 p.m., for consideration and input on the proposed draft maps.
March 10: Fourth public hearing during which council will vote on the ordinance setting the final map boundaries.
April 17: Deadline for the city to adopt an ordinance setting the final map boundaries.
All but the Jan. 20 meeting are expected to be virtual.
Updated information about the new mapping and other projects in Palm Desert can also be found online at EngagePalmDesert.com.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Desert holding first redistricting meeting on Thursday