Census 2020: Los Angeles County’s loss could be the Inland Empire’s gain in 2021 redistricting

The Press-Enterprise | April 22, 2019


A reshuffling of political representation in favor of the Inland Empire and to the detriment of Los Angeles County could be in order following the 2020 census, according to a new report from a Southern California think tank.

The report from the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College predicts the Inland region and Bay Area will gain state legislative and congressional seats at the expense of the San Gabriel Valley and southeast LA County in the next round of political redistricting, which will redraw Assembly, state Senate and House of Representatives districts to reflect updated population figures.

“Winners and Losers: The 2020 Census and California’s 2021 Redistricting” is based on the institute’s forecast of the upcoming census, which predicts California’s population will grow 8.7 percent from the 2010 count to more than 40 million people. But that growth isn’t evenly spread out, with the Bay Area and Inland Empire outpacing LA County.

“Slow growth rates in parts of Los Angeles County means those regions are likely to see their influence reduced in Sacramento and Washington, while relatively high growth rates in the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Bernardino/Riverside County Inland Empire mean those areas are likely to increase their influence after the 2021 redistricting,” institute Fellow Douglas Johnson said in a news release.

The forecast “assumes relatively even Census participation and accuracy across the state,” the news release read. “Areas that are more effective in getting residents to participate in the Census could see gains in representation and federal funding at the expense of areas that lag in Census participation.”

Complicating matters is the prospect of California losing one of its 53 House seats once the census is complete. That could happen if there’s an undercount – a likely scenario, critics say, if the Trump administration is allowed to include a citizenship question on the census that could deter participation by undocumented immigrants.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties – home to more than 4 million – are represented by eight state senators, 14 Assembly members, and 9 House members. Los Angeles County – the nation’s most populated with more than 10 million – has 18 House members, 14 state senators, and 24 Assembly members.

According to the report, these House districts are at greatest risk of dissolving:

  • 27th Congressional District (Pasadena, Altadena, Sierra Madre, Glendora, Claremont, and San Antonio Heights). The district’s congresswoman is Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena.
  • 32nd Congressional District (Covina, West Covina, Azusa, Monrovia, Duarte, San Dimas, La Verne, El Monte, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, La Puente, and Avocado Heights). The district’s congresswoman is Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte.
  • 38th Congressional District (South El Monte, Cerritos, Artesia, Whittier, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, La Mirada, East La Mirada, Montebello, Santa Fe Springs, La Palma, Hawaiian Gardens and parts of Bellflower and Lakewood). The district’s congresswoman is Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood.
  • 40th Congressional District (Downey, Paramount, Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Maywood and Vernon and parts of Bellflower and Los Angeles). The district’s congresswoman is Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey.

The report notes that all four districts are represented by a Latina or Asian-American.

“Traditionally in California, seats held by Latino, African-American, or Asian-American representatives were relatively protected by the Federal Voting Rights Act, with their districts pushing east or west to pick up the population needed – at the expense, in the past, of the Republican-held seats on the edges of Los Angeles County,” the report read.

“But the 2018 Democratic wave essentially swept Republicans out of the County and Orange County is entirely represented by Democrats. Unless Republicans pick up a seat in the area in the 2020 election, California’s lost seat is likely to be a Democratic one.”

Unlikely many states, California redistricting is handled by a 14-member, independent citizens’ commission of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents or third-party members chosen through an application process that involves the legislature’s leaders and State Auditor Elaine Howle’s office.

The commission will rely on 2020 Census data, as well as public input, in deciding how to draw districts.

Paul Hubler, director of government and community relations for the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, said the number of valley representatives is less important than the quality of relationships with those lawmakers.

“We will strongly advocate for ensuring that communities of interest in the San Gabriel Valley remain together,” said Hubler, whose organization represents 30 cities.

The report’s findings “(point) out the importance of the Census and having an accurate Census,” said Paul Granillo, president, and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, which seeks to promote the region’s economy.

The Inland region, Granillo said, is growing by 85,000 people annually. “That’s a good-sized city … With that growth should come growth in our political power.”

The Inland Empire Complete Count Committee, an alliance of government and business groups in conjunction with UC Riverside’s Center for Social Innovation, is working to ensure the region’s hard-to-count populations are reached by the census.

The report “shows the potential for realignment in what political power and representation looks like in California,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a UCR public policy and political science professor and the committee’s director

“I say ‘potential’ because a lot of it will depend on what the census count looks like,” he added. “If we have a severe undercount problem in the Inland Empire and LA does not, then those gains in representation will not materialize.”

View Original Publication: The Press-Enterprise