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Every 10 years, the Eugene City Council adjusts the council wards based on the Federal census. The basic purpose of redistricting is to bring the wards back to more equal population distribution. A similar process is underway throughout the country at every level, all in an effort to assure equal protection under the laws.
This process determines which neighborhoods and areas of the city are grouped together into a ward, for the purposes of electing City Councilors that represent each ward.
The City Council must determine any necessary adjustments to ward boundaries. This decision will occur late in 2021 or early in 2022, as Federal census data will not be made available until late-September of 2021, several months later than usual.
There will be multiple opportunities to engage in the process. In the spring, community members can provide input on the criteria that will be used to create new boundaries via a survey. Once Census data becomes available and different boundary scenarios are created, additional opportunities for input will be created. This will include additional online surveys, public forums and public hearings prior to key Council decision points.
The Eugene Charter provision related to redistricting is general and states:
Section 33. Wards. The council shall divide the city into wards and redefine the boundaries thereof as necessary to accord persons in the city the equal protection of the laws. No person may vote at a city election in a ward other than that in which he or she resides.
The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. This is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The data collected by the decennial census determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. The Census Bureau is required by federal law to provide population counts to states by April 1, 2021, however this has been delayed to September 30, 2021.
The role of the census in maintaining representative government is strong. Apportionment of the U.S. Congress is only half of the process of distributing political power. Virtually all states rely on the census numbers for the redrawing of political districts within the states after apportionment. The Census Bureau has a responsibility to "work closely" with officials in the individual states before each census and to provide summary data for local areas such as election precincts and wards. These areas are the essential building blocks for creating new districts and wards.
The council adopts criteria to guide the ward boundary process. Those criteria are likely to address such issues as the allowable range of difference in populations among wards (in 2001, the City used a guideline of +/- 5 percent and +/-3 percent in 2011), anticipated growth in wards over the next 10 years, and such factors as neighborhood organization borders, geographical features and population demographics.
The actual redrawing of boundaries awaits preparation of the 2020 census data and transfer of that data to our local mapping system. The mapping itself will consider the distribution of population throughout the city, as well as the geographic and other features that help shape our community. Staff will prepare ward boundary options incorporating up-to-date population figures and reflecting criteria adopted by council. Council will review the data and ward boundary options, obtain public input, and select a plan that makes sense.
Section 44 of the Eugene City Charter provides that the Eugene Water & Electric Board be composed of five electors whose election is prescribed by ordinance. Section 2.175 of the Eugene Code, in turn, provides that one EWEB commissioner be elected from wards 1 and 8, one from wards 2 and 3, one from wards 4 and 5, one from wards 6 and 7, and one at large. Any changes to the council ward boundaries directly affects the districts EWEB commissioners represent.
Hold initial work session to share information, identify issues, and discuss general approach.
Provide information and obtain public input on criteria.
Council direction to staff on ward boundary options.
Give direction on boundary revisions or new ward options.