Ward 3 task force assembles to deliberate district boundaries
Changes to ANC and SMD borders could increase student representation
The next step in D.C.’s redistricting process is underway as all eight wards have started evaluating the boundaries of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and Single Member Districts. There are currently 10 SMDs — electoral districts represented by a single officeholder — in Ward 3.
Redistricting occurs once every 10 years to ensure balanced representation based on updated population counts reported in the census. The D.C. Council subcommittee charged with redistricting started the process in September 2021.
The subcommittee had until December to make alterations to ward boundaries and the final map was approved by the City Council on Dec. 21. The most significant alterations were made to the boundaries of Wards 6, 7 and 8.
Although no changes were made to the boundary of Ward 3, where American University is located, decisions have yet to be made about its ANCs.
ANC 3D Commissioner and senior in the School of Public Affairs Christian Damiana said redistricting every decade ensures that SMDs have equal populations.
“Even though the ANC Single Member District is supposed to have only 2,000 residents, after 10 years that can drastically shift,” Damiana said. “I represent 3D07 which is basically just most of American University’s campus and I represent 500 to 700 people more than I am supposed to.”
Ward councilmembers were responsible for assembling a task force to lead deliberations, so the office of Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh organized a task force comprised of 11 residents who began meeting in January.
Current ANC commissioners were not eligible for appointment to the task force and Cheh requested that anyone planning to run in ANC elections stay out of the redistricting process, which Damiana believes was the right decision.
“It’s not right for future candidates to be influencing who the voters in their elections will be,” Damiana said.
However, former commissioners could be considered for appointment. Ward 3 task force chair Jerry Malitz previously served two terms as a commissioner for ANC 3G05. Malitz said his background as a statistician at the Department of Education helped in assembling a task force that is geographically representative.
“I actually did a geographic mapping of the addresses of all the people on the task force,” Malitz said. “You can’t accommodate all 30 neighborhoods that are lifted from Ward 3, but I think the 11 people do a very good job representing the geography of Ward 3.”
The Ward 3 task force will hold meetings through March. The meetings are virtual, open to the public, and can be watched live at 7 p.m. EST on Tuesdays.
In addition to opening their meetings to the public and uploading recordings of proceedings to the task force website, Malitz said the staff of Cheh’s office and the task force members aim to publicize the weekly deliberations to engage with the community throughout the redistricting process.
The Ward 3 task force has already received emails expressing residents’ concerns about disenfranchisement.
“Whether they be students or anybody else, we will be taking that very seriously,” Malitz said. “We’re not looking to do anything that disenfranchises any groups that currently have a voice.”
The task force will have until April 1 to submit their recommendations for ANC and SMD boundaries to the subcommittee.
“I would anticipate some major changes to the ANC maps,” Damiana said. “I will be working very closely with the task force, and I have already, to get lines drawn that are favorable to AU students.”
Damiana is currently the only commissioner representing AU students on ANC 3D, but he thinks this could change once redistricting concludes.
“Next year, there could be two people representing AU which would be really valuable for student representation on the ANC and that will also give another student a really good opportunity to represent their constituents to the D.C. government,” Damiana said.