Palo Alto legislator warns California’s redistricting plans will dilute Asian American voting power

Palo Alto City Council Member Greg Tanaka

Palo Alto City Council Member Greg Lin Tanaka is one of the many Asian Americans living in California concerned that the state’s plans on redistricting will dilute Asian voter trends.

Breaking up key districts

Immediately after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission released draft congressional district maps in early November, residents, politicians and analysts began voicing concerns about how almost every district has been rearranged and broken up.

Tanaka, a second-term City Council member and Santa Clara County resident since 1994, called California’s plans to redistrict “deliberate gerrymandering” in an interview with NextShark.

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In many cases, the redistricting will make it harder for incumbents to keep their current positions. For example, CBS 8 San Diego reported that the Democrat incumbent in the Central Valley will have a harder time keeping his seat because the redistricting plans will include more Republican voters within the district.

In addition, some assembly members who lived in different districts now live in the same district because of the new plans. And if these plans are finalized, these incumbents will have to run against each other for the same positions.

Tanaka said that he has seen urban areas grouped with rural areas in many of the district maps proposed by the Commission.

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“If you look at the map, it looks like it’s not along any county or city boundaries,” he said.

Silicon Valley District

Tanaka is running for Congress as a representative for California’s 18th congressional district, which encompasses areas in Santa Clara and Alameda counties that together are known as Silicon Valley.

Elections are based largely on the way district lines are drawn, explained Tanaka while expressing his concerns over the proposed changes, which would divide and dilute larger populations of Asian voters.

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“[The proposal] takes what would have been a 40% Asian district and carves it out into a district with only about 20%, and that’s not right,” he said.

For Tanaka, this idea is especially troublesome because Santa Clara County’s Asian community has grown so much over the past decade. He is worried that the redistricting plans will spread out the established Asian community into different districts, causing current districts to lose their power in numbers.

Silicon Valley is home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world and is home to a rapidly growing number of Asian Americans. In the last decade, there has been a 6.44% increase in Asian Santa Clara county residents under 18 and a 7.3% increase in Asian Santa Clara county adult residents, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

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With the rapidly growing population of Asians in Silicon Valley and a previously all-white city council, Tanaka said he was inspired to run in 2016 in order to more adequately represent his community in local government. In 2020, he was re-elected after amassing more than 400 endorsements.

Tanaka said he hopes to sway public opinion before the plans are finalized in mid-December. 

“Silicon Valley cities should be grouped together because this is a true community of interest,” he said.

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Featured Image from Palo Alto Online

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