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Cuyahoga County Districting Commission Approves New Map

29,628 Cuyahoga County residents will fall under a new council district under the map approved by the districting commission Monday. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
A Cuyahoga County flag waving outside the downtown headquarters.

Just under 30,000 Cuyahoga County residents will be in new council districts under the districting map approved Monday by the Cuyahoga County Districting Commission. That accounts for just over 2 percent of the county’s population.

The map, compiled under a condensed timeline due to delayed results from the U.S. Census, includes changes based on multiple public meetings to collect resident feedback. The commission brought on three firms, R Strategy Group, TargetSmart and Muller Public Strategies, to carry out the redesign of the district map.

The new map aims to meet required criteria for the districting process, said TargetSmart Lead Strategic Consultant Matt Cassidy, including keeping precincts and neighborhoods together. Districts one, four, five and 11 are unchanged. The biggest changes are in District 7, Cassidy said. That’s in part because the district is entirely within the city of Cleveland, he said, which is more vulnerable to change.

“Then the other thing is keeping an eye on the African American percentage, to not diminish the opportunity there,” Cassidy said.

Residents spoke at the meeting to voice concern about a lack of compactness in some areas, as well as the lack of time for feedback. The commission had less than a month to complete the districting process due to delayed U.S. Census results, which were necessary to complete the work.

The coronavirus pandemic also limited the ways in which the commission could collect public feedback on proposed maps, as meetings were held at the county headquarters in Downtown Cleveland rather than across the county.

The most significant changes were in District 7, which is contained within the city of Cleveland. [Cuyahoga County Districting Commission]

With those constraints in place and so many variables to consider, said commission member Kenneth Lumpkin, the consultants did a great job, particularly in maintaining the racial makeup of the districts.

“Obviously it’s not perfect. When I listen to the comments from the state meetings, I see there’s so much difference of opinion as to how this process should be done. Even at this level, there was a lot of differences,” Lumpkin said. “We got through it 10 years ago, and we’ll get through it today.”

Additional concerns include the geographical size of the district and maintaining existing neighborhoods or communities.

The map accomplishes what the commission set out to do in many of those areas, said commission member Cathlyn Murphy. Minimizing the number of people affected is difficult when balancing out all of the variables, she said.

“Minimizing disruption isn’t just about moving one voter or person from one district to another,” Murphy said. “It also spills over into other considerations of this commission.”

Multiple commission members expressed concern about the sustainability of the redesign process as it operates now. Some also suggested the county reconsider what the work entails before the next opportunity comes in a decade.

“I’ve made it clear I don’t think this process is sustainable the way things are happening with the census and the way communities are being created,” Lumpkin said. “But again, that’s the worry of the people who will come after us, 10 years from today.”