Electoral districts, either within a city, a county, or a state, are drawn to best represent the people and communities within them. That is, unless you live in Berkeley.
In 1986, Berkeley adopted districts for its City Council. Yet rather than permit districts that represent our communities as they grow and change, as is done everywhere else in the country, Berkeley has made the 1986 lines permanent, allowing for only minor deviations for population adjustment.
Big deal, you might say. After all, didn’t Berkeley voters approve this in 1986?
That may be true. But the fact that the 1986 voters decided perpetual district boundaries makes the current lines inherently undemocratic.
But even more importantly: did you know that two-thirds of people who currently live in Berkeley were not around to vote on those original lines? It’s time for a change!
Look at the 2010 US Census. The proof is in the numbers.
Age breakdown of Berkeley residents (2010 Census)
In 2010, 66% of Berkeley residents were not yet 42 (and thus not old enough to vote in 1986).
To have voted in the 1986 elections when the districts were implemented, one must have been born in 1968 or before. Today, these voters would be at least 44 (in 2010, they would have been at least 42). Considering the median age in Berkeley is 31, one already gets a feeling that there are a lot of Berkeley residents around who didn’t get a vote in 1986. In fact, two-thirds of current Berkeley residents are too young to have voted that year.
It gets worse. The number of Berkeley residents today who could not vote in 1986 is probably much higher. In addition to those younger than 44, anyone who moved to Berkeley or was not an American citizen that year never had a say in that election.
Clearly, Berkeley residents live in unrepresentative city council districts that were established nearly three decades ago, in an election in which most never could have participated. There are many words to describe this situation, but “democratic” is definitely not one of them.
Fortunately enough, there is a solution. Berkeley Measure R would do away with the antiquated lines of 1986. Rather than establish a new set of permanent districts, Measure R will allow for the city to redraw lines every decade that properly serve residents of the city at that time.
If you are one of the two-thirds of Berkeley residents who did not have a say in 1986, you should have your voice heard this November by voting Yes on Measure R!
You can learn more about Measure R by the Vote Yes on Measure R website.
Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles of 500 to 800 words. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related and local authors are preferred. Please email submissions to us. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.
Visit Voters Edge Berkeley, Berkeleyside’s non-partisan voting guide to the ten measures on the Berkeley ballot.
Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to November 6.