2 quarters or 5? Palm Desert Residents Bring Both Sides to the Workshop

As a group of residents entered the Palm Desert Community Center to help redraw the boundaries of the city’s two electoral districts, another group stood outside, quietly holding signs supporting the move to the vote in five constituencies.

About ten people attended the 6 p.m. workshop in person – all masked and far from each other. The hour-long workshop, led by Stephanie Smith, director of election services at Best Best & Krieger, was also streamed live with about a dozen people tuning in at the start.

Smith explained the redrawing process and the laws the city must follow to redraw the maps. Among the rules: The boundaries of each district must be contiguous, she said.

Smith also demonstrated how citizens can draw their own maps using the mapping tools on the city’s website. engagepalmdesert.com/2022-redistricting.

The website also offers an instructional video for drawing and submitting a map.

The deadline for the public to submit draft maps is February 11. A virtual workshop will then take place at 5 p.m. on February 22 when the city redistricting consultant will review the draft maps submitted by the public and drawn by the consulting team.

Thursday’s workshop was for the public and board members did not attend.

Push for five districts by November

Members of the citizen group

The city moved to a two-district system with the 2020 election as part of a settlement agreement with two Palm Desert women who sued the city in 2019, claiming the general voting system went against mandates of the California Voting Rights Act.

The law requires cities to turn into districts, bringing together “communities of interest” to ensure protected minorities have a better chance of being represented.

Boundaries must be reconfigured every 10 years, based on new census figures.

District 1, called the Civic Center Core District, is the smaller of Palm Desert’s two districts, currently encompassing approximately 18.1% of the city’s current population of 51,317.

District 1 is to encompass 18.4% to 21.6% of the current population – or 163 to 1,800 more residents than those currently residing within the boundaries, which are to be contiguous.

District 1 has one representative elected every four years, while the larger District 2 has four representatives, with staggered elections every two years.

One of the women who filed the lawsuit, Karina Quintanilla, is now the council representative for District 1. She was elected to her first four-year term in November 2020. She has said several times since that she s was presented in the elections that one of its objectives is to move the city into five districts.

City Council members are expected to discuss whether to ask voters to decide whether the city should stay with the current two-district voting system or move to five districts with a ballot measure for the November election that would likely make it effective by the 2024 elections.

City council members are expected to discuss whether to let voters decide whether to move to five districts at its January 27 meeting.

But the group organizing the rally on Thursday, ‘Drive4Five’, wants the council to make the decision now.

“There’s no better time than the present to take care of a long-standing issue,” said Carlos Garcia, an organizer for the nonpartisan group. “Everything seems to be focused on maintaining the status quo.”

As a resident of the north end of Palm Desert, Garcia said current council members all live in the south end of town and he wants a representative who better understands the issues in his neighborhoods.

“We have different issues in North Palm Desert,” he said, adding, “North Palm Desert is remarkably diverse.”

The current board isn’t ignoring the north end of town, Garcia said, but someone living in the area would experience what’s going on and what’s needed.

“You can have a problem, but when you’re going through that problem, it’s very different,” he said.

“A real diversity of points of view”

Councilor Kathleen Kelly called for the item to be put on the agenda, saying she thinks it’s something all residents should have a say in.

Kelly knows Drive 4 Five and its members’ perspective “and I respect that,” she told the Desert Sun on Thursday. “At the same time, I have contact with other residents and I hear a real diversity of points of view.

People who are happy with the status quo aren’t as likely to take the time to attend board meetings to say so, she said.

“So I asked for a discussion because the best way to involve all of our residents and find out what the majority thinks is to put it on the ballot,” Kelly said.

Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas

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