Dec 7, 2021 - News

D.C. redistricting nears end with equity debate

Washington, D.C. population by ward
Data: U.S. Census; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

The District's months-long redistricting process will wrap up this month after some last-minute fireworks.

Why it matters: Along with local governments nationwide, the District is redrawing its political boundaries in line with new numbers from the 2020 census.

  • The biggest changes are touching prosperous Ward 6, currently the largest ward, and wards 7 and 8, two of the District's poorest wards with the smallest populations.
  • Ward 8 will gain booming Navy Yard to rightsize the population imbalance. But leaders in Ward 7 have been in an uproar over the proposed map leaving the ward as the smallest in the city.
  • Much like Ward 8, the ward is an underinvested, majority-Black community bearing the brunt of sharp inequities in access to fresh food, good schools, and other resources.

What they're saying: "If the pursuit of redistricting is equity, how do we start and end as the lowest population?" said Dionna Maria Lewis, a lawyer and member of the Ward 7 Democrats, who held a press conference last night denouncing the proposal.

  • The proposed map is the product of months of hearings held by a D.C. Council redistricting subcommittee.

The full D.C. Council will now take up the map. Council Chair Phil Mendelson yesterday proposed tweaks to the boundaries that were welcomed by Ward 7 leaders.

  • His changes would bump up the ward to make it the fourth-largest in the city, Mendelson told reporters.
  • It also puts the communities of Kingman Park and Rosedale within Ward 7's boundaries, key "asks" for critics of the original map.
  • Council member Vincent Gray said in a statement that Mendelson's map "redraws Ward 7 fairly and equitably."

What's next: Lawmakers may debate for a long while today and propose more changes before taking the first of two votes.


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