Community

Ward 6 to be Redistricting Focus in D.C.

The District’s Ward 6 — which encompasses established neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill and Eastern Market as well as bustling areas such as the Southwest Waterfront, Navy Yard and NoMa — has emerged as the epicenter for the city’s redistricting process that will begin next month.

U.S. Census Bureau 2020 data released on Aug. 12 showed the District with a population of 689,545 in 2020, an increase of about 88,000 people from the 2020 number of 601,723. Half of the District’s population growth occurred among whites moving into the city.

However, Blacks left the city at the level of 9.1 percent. The data show the District as the only state-level jurisdiction in the nation in which the white population increased in the past decade. Overall, the census reported the District as 50 percent Black, 38 percent white and 11.3 percent Latino.

Ward 6, located largely in the eastern part of the District, accounted for nearly a third of the city’s growth or 31,604 residents, during the previous decade, the census reported. In contrast, the slowest growth occurred in Wards 2 and 7. The sluggish growth in Wards 2 and 7 could account for the former’s heavy university presence that tends to be seasonal and the latter having Black neighborhoods that could have been undercounted, city observers said. Wards 1,2,3,4 and 5 had population growth but nowhere near the level of Ward 6’s during the past decade, according to the data.

The census data comes as the District, like other state-level jurisdictions throughout the nation, prepares for redistricting. In the District, ward and advisory neighborhood commission boundaries will be drawn based on the data. District law requires relatively equal size for all ward populations, within a range of five percent above or below the average ward population. According to 2020 census data, a ward’s population would be 86,193 residents.

As a result, Ward 6 would have to give up 17,699 residents to other wards for there to be a population balance. Meanwhile, Wards 7 and 8 will need to expand with the former needing 5,600 residents and the latter, 3,370.

Silverman Talks Redistricting

D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) chairs the subcommittee that will lead the redistricting process. Serving with her are D.C. Councilmembers Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Christine Henderson (I-At Large).

Silverman said the Ward 6 population numbers don’t surprise her.

“Ward 6 has had a tremendous number of residents over the past decade,” she said. “Ward 7 and 8 have had the least number of people in terms of growth. There must be balance in population among the wards. We’re going to make sure the redistricting process is fair; it will be conducted with integrity and everyone will be heard.”

Silverman said the formal process will begin when the final census numbers come to city officials in September. She said hearings will be held for public input on how the ward boundaries should be drawn. The ward shaping process should be completed in December so the June 2022 party primaries will be able to take place, she said.

Silverman said the drawing of the boundaries for the advisory neighborhood commissioners’ single-member districts will start around January.

An East of the River View

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kelvin Brown, who represents single-member district 7B06 in Ward 7, welcomes Ward 6 residents into his ward but said the redistricting census data should be looked at comprehensively with the aim to help residents and not just be an exercise in counting numbers.

“Our elected officials should use this opportunity to understand the data to determine why Ward 7 isn’t growing at the same rate and/or what changes are required to ensure Ward 7 residents are counted and have the necessary resources to thrive,” Brown said. “We must ensure residents have access to resources that keep them here and not displace generations or erode community culture.”

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