LOS ANGELES—Throughout the months of April, May, June, and July, the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) led a coordinated effort with activists throughout California to ensure fair Congressional redistricting. Every 10 years, the State of California redraws its federal and state legislative district boundaries to more accurately reflect the state’s residents’ demographics and overall dynamics, and the ANCA-WR was the only Armenian-American organization engaged in this effort.
The ANCA-WR’s Elections Committee worked with local ANCAs throughout the state to raise awareness about the redistricting process and educate constituents about how redistricting would impact the Armenian American community in California. Through their efforts, community members attended public hearings of the Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) to educate its 14 members regarding the dynamics of the community. California is home to the largest Armenian community in the United States.
“In addition to submitting proposed district maps and written testimony to the CRC describing the Armenian community dynamics in California, the ANCA-WR worked with individuals throughout the state to help ensure that their voice was heard,” said Garen Yegparian , who helmed the ANCA-WR Election Committee’s Redistricting Task Force.
“The ties that bind our neighborhoods and communities are multi-dimensional. Ensuring that a common district encompasses these areas is important and helps address core quality of life issues in our community. It is unfortunate that we were the only representatives of the Armenian community advocating fairly drawn districts,” he added.
This year, the process was led by the CRC, as established by the Voters FIRST Act which was voted into law by Californians in 2008, and expanded in 2010. Previously, the State Legislature was responsible for redistricting. The CRC is made up of five Republicans, five Democrats, and four not affiliated with either of those two parties but registered with another party or as decline-to-state. The CRC must draw the district lines in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians.
The CRC was charged with holding public hearings to gather public comment. After listening to the public and drawing maps for 43 House of Representatives, 40 Senate, 80 Assembly, and four Board of Equalization districts, the CRC voted on the new maps to be used for the next decade.
The maps were approved with a total of 13 votes in favor, and one against. To approve the new maps, the maps must have received nine “yes” votes from the Commission—three “yes” votes from members registered with each of the two largest parties, and three “yes” votes from the other members.
“While this only happens once a decade, it is one of the most important forms of regular civic participation in which communities can be involved,” said Yegparian. “Additionally, we should highlight the success that we achieved as a result of our participation in this process — primarily in the creation of a district that encompasses the largest pockets of Armenian American constituents into one congressional district in the Los Angeles Area that comprises Glendale, Burbank, Hollywood, North Hollywood, La Crescenta, and Tujunga. This is an incredible opportunity, and demonstrates that our efforts were not in vain. The decisions made this year will impact our community for years to come.”
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, locals, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.