The second public presentation detailing this year’s county redistricting process was delivered Saturday, Oct. 16, by Jerry Oelerich of FLO Analytics. During the presentation, supervisors questioned the data being used to draw the new district maps, and a tool for public input and map drafting was shared.
The redistricting process, done every 10 years following the national census, requires that county district maps be redrawn to better represent the new population numbers. The data, questioned by some of the supervisors, that will be used to redraw district lines comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Decennial Census data for Trinity County, and are the only source of data considered for the process.
According to the Census Bureau data, Trinity County has grown by nearly 17%, from a population of 13,786 in 2010 to 16,101 in 2020, an increase of more than 2,300 people. The data also shows most of the current districts to have lost population, while one district, district 5, gained the surplus and then some. All in one region. Post Mountain and Trinity Pines.
“The numbers ... don’t make sense logically,” Sup. Keith Groves said in an interview after the presentation.
Sup. Liam Gogan said as much as well, and more, afterwards.
“My general thoughts are ... the numbers are inaccurate,” Gogan said. “I have a hard time with the numbers. We’ve never had a 17% jump in population in the 30-odd years I’ve been here.”
“According to the data, District 5, which encompasses The Pines, grew by 37% of Trinity County’s (total) population and it historically has the least amount of voters in the district,” he said.
Sup. Jill Cox, speaking to the Journal afterwards as well, said that she had sought the advice of former clerk/recorder/assessor, CAO and election official for Trinity County, Dero Forslund, when reviewing the census districting data, and the numbers she says — while surprising — might not be so far-fetched.
“Historically The Pines were relatively unpopulated ... until cannabis exploded,” Forslund said. “Maybe (the data) is right. I understand why people are questioning it, but I think it could be more accurate than we think.”
“To all of a sudden to see that many new people,” he said, “It’s probably from cannabis. And if it’s from cannabis, it’s probably from Post Mountain, and that’s what the numbers show.”
Census Bureau media specialist Patricia Ramos shared another possibility with The Journal that some of the changes in data collection for the 2020 census could have caused increased self-reporting.
“The 2020 Census was the first digital decennial available nationwide. So that is one of the biggest changes in the methodology and execution ... People were able to respond online in addition to phone and mail. This was the most popular method for response, especially during the pandemic.”
“All I can say is, yes, I would encourage us to work with the data that we have,” Oelerich said.
“Obviously these are numbers we’re gonna have to go by,” Sup. Gogan said, but also said that he plans to look into having the numbers reviewed.
“Maybe it’s a conversation we have,” Sup. Cox said. “Maybe it’s not worth the time and additional resources, or maybe there’s something deeper. It’s gonna take a little investigation to see if it’s worth the time and resources to challenge it.”
Two more public meetings are planned for Nov. 16, where drafts of the possible new district maps are planned to be shown, and Nov. 29, when the final draft map should be completed. Public input has also been requested via a recently released district mapping tool with room for comments that can be found at redistricting.trinitycounty.org.