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Merced district maps progressing slowly

The Merced City Council and a civil rights nonprofit have agreed to push back the due date for first drafts of a map designating voting districts for Merced elections.

Originally, the Independent Districting Advisory Committee planned to submit draft maps this month to the council, but will now be tasked to submit them by September, according to city records.

“It gives us a bit more breathing room,” Merced spokesman Mike Conway said in an email.

The council worked out the agreement with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that last year spurred the move to districts.

The committee on districts made up of seven Merced residents met throughout May with members of the public as they looked to gain input on what the districts should look like.

So far, the committee has only received one proposed map from a Merced resident, according to Miguel Lopez, the committee’s vice chairman. He said the district still needs more input from residents to be successful.

“We need as many we can (get),” he said. “We want the community to submit as many maps as possible.”

The committee is also preparing more public meetings in July and August to further hammer out proposed maps for the six districts. Under the new district voting system, the mayor will continue to be elected by voters citywide, but the six council seats will be picked by districts.

Public Participation Kits for drawing maps are available at the meetings in Spanish, English and Hmong for residents interested in drawing district lines of their own to propose to the community. Those kits are also available on the city’s website by clicking the “Boards and Commissions” tab and then clicking on the Independent Districting Advisory Committee.

The committee is working with National Demographics Corp., a Southern California firm that has performed work in many regions of the country, according to city records.

The districts are supposed to make the City Council more representative of Merced’s ethnic demographics.

49.6 percentMerced’s Hispanic population, according to the U.S. census

Though the city’s population is 49.6 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. census, the mayor and five of the councilmen are white. The seventh member of the council is a Hmong man.

Advocates for district elections have also said the change should give better representation to south Merced, an area of town south of Highway 99. All six sitting council members in Merced live north of Bear Creek.

The dates for the upcoming public meetings have been chosen, but the locations have not been determined. For more, go to www.cityofmerced.org.

MERCED’S LATINO OR HISPANIC POPULATION

  • POPULATION: 39,140
  • OF VOTING AGE: 24,121
  • REGISTERED: 12,098
  • VOTED IN 2012: 6,152

SOURCE: National Demographics Corp.

MERCED’S OVERALL POPULATION

  • POPULATION: 78,958
  • OF VOTING AGE: 53,867
  • REGISTERED: 31,819
  • VOTED IN 2012: 18,998

SOURCE: National Demographics Corp.

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