Districting: Establishing Voter Divisions

The Districting Process

Local governments use data from the U.S. Census Bureau to draw division lines to reflect the changing local population demographics. State law requires cities, counties, and special districts to engage communities in the districting process by holding public hearings and doing public outreach.

The Santa Margarita Water District is transitioning from an at-large election process to division-based elections through which SMWD’s five board members will each be elected from a single-member division. A by-division method divides an agency into separate divisions and allows the voters in each division to elect a member of the Board of Directors. These new division-based elections will take effect for the November 2024 election.

How can I participate?

The Board of Directors will be holding public hearings to receive resident input on where division lines should be drawn. Share your specific thoughts, draw a map, attend an upcoming public hearing to get involved! We want to hear your stories - tell us what your communities of interest are and give your opinions on draft maps in person or via email at districting@smwd.com.

Below you can view a calendar of public hearings at which you can give input about the process or a specific map.

Why is this important?

The Santa Margarita Water District is asking for your help as we undertake the District’s first ever districting process. We want your input in planning, drawing, and dividing our District. With your help, the finalized maps we create will define the Director Division boundaries and will impact how you elect your Board Members in the future.

Our primary goal when developing election divisions is to draw lines that respect neighborhoods, history, and geographical elements. In order to achieve this goal, we need your input: What do you consider the boundaries of your neighborhood?

Submitting Public Comments

The public is encouraged to submit ideas or comments on the districting process including ideas about communities of interest or proposed division boundaries. This can be done at board meetings, public hearings or via email to districting@smwd.com.

The public will have several opportunities and methods to provide input into SMWD’s districting effort. The public can submit written comments, submit maps for consideration, and is invited to provide oral comments to the SMWD Board of Directors at any of the public hearings related to districting. More information regarding the public hearings is provided below under “Public Hearings & Timeline”.

Public Participation Kit

The Santa Margarita Water District is seeking your help in mapping out what a division-based election would look like. The following links detail how to create potential director divisions. The first link “Districting Instructions” describes the two options you have for submitting a division map. The second link “Idea Form” is for you to submit comments/ideas on division elections along with your contact information. Item 3 has two sizes of the “Plan Proposal Submission Map” and is for downloading and drawing your map. The “Division Plan Proposal Assignment” is an Excel spreadsheet for creating different scenarios for the divisions and should be used in combination with Item 3’s Plan Proposal Submission Map. Additional items are also included as reference materials.

In-person mapping assistance is available at the District offices at 26111 Antonio Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 or by calling the District Clerk’s Office at 949-459-6642.

Item 1: Districting Instructions (PDF)
Item 2: Idea Form (PDF)
Item 3: 8x11 Plan Proposal Submission Map (PDF)
Item 3: 11x17 Plan Proposal Submission Map (PDF)
Item 4: Division Plan Proposal Assignment- Excel (Excel/.xls 9.8MB)
Item 5: Existing Conditions (PDF 17.6MB)
Item 6: SMWD Reference Map with cities, 2020 Census places, parks, and unified school districts (PDF)

Districting Maps

The public map submission period closed on Friday, January 13, 2023. 

Below are the division proposals submitted to the Santa Margarita Water District in its 2023 Districting effort. The files posted include individual proposal packets, additional documentation and aggregated proposal information.

Posted February 10, 2023

Posted January 30, 2023 

Posted January 25, 2023

Public Hearings & Timeline

10/05/2022 5:30 p.m.Board Meeting
  • Districting process kickoff
Agenda Information
11/02/2022 5:30 p.m.Public Hearing #1:
  • Pre-Map
  • Solicit public input
  • Release districting website
Agenda Information
12/07/2022 5:30 p.m.Public Hearing #2:Agenda Information
01/11/2023 5:30 p.m.Public Hearing #3:
  • Pre-Map
  • Solicit public input
Agenda Information
01/13/2023 5:00 p.m.Close of the public submission period for map proposals by the public
02/01/2023 5:30 p.m.Public Hearing #4:Agenda Information
02/17/2023 8:30 a.m.Public Hearing #5:Agenda Information
03/01/2023 5:30 p.m.Public Meeting/Hearing
  • If needed, final meeting to select map
  • Adopt resolution finalizing division boundaries
Agenda Information


What is districting?

It is the regular process of determining the lines of voting districts in accordance with population shifts. In California, public agencies and other organizations must divide the lines of their districts according to the results of the Decennial Census, so that each board division is substantially equal in population. This ensures that each elected official represents about the same number of constituents. All division lines must be reviewed to meet strict requirements for population equality and voting rights protections in accordance with the federal Voting Rights Act and the California Elections Code.

Why is it important?

Districting determines which neighborhoods and communities are grouped together into a division for purposes of electing Board Members. The Board of Directors will seek input in selecting the first division map for electing Board Members. You have an opportunity to share with the Board of Directors how you think division boundaries should be drawn to best represent your community during the public hearings and/or by submitting comments to districting@smwd.com.

What criteria will be used to determine division lines?

  1. Federal Laws 
    • Equal Population (based on total population of residents as determined by the most recent Federal Decennial Census)
    • Federal Voting Rights Act
    • No Racial Gerrymandering
  2. California Criteria for Special Districts (to the extent practicable) 
    • Topography (considering mountains, canyons)
    • Geography (Considering infrastructure such as highways, bridges, major arterial roads)
    • Cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity, and compactness of territory (Do not bypass one group of people to get to a more distant group of people)
    • Communities of interests of the division
  3. Other Traditional Redistricting Principles 
    • Minimize voters shifted to different election years
    • Respect voters’ choices / continuity in office
    • Future population growth

What are Communities of Interest?

A community of interest is a “contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.” They are the overlapping sets of neighborhoods, networks, and groups that share interests, views, cultures, histories, languages, and values and whose boundaries can be identified on a map. The following elements help define communities of interest:

  • shared interests in schools, housing, community safety, transit, health conditions, land use, environmental conditions, and/or other issues;
  • common social and civic networks, including churches, mosques, temples, homeowner associations, and community centers, and shared use of community spaces, like parks and shopping centers;
  • racial and ethnic compositions, cultural identities, and households that predominantly speak a language other than English;
  • similar socio-economic status, including but not limited to income, home-ownership, and education levels;
  • shared political boundary lines from other jurisdictions, such as school districts, community college districts, and water districts

How will residents be notified about the districting process?

The Board of Directors will notify the public about districting hearings, post maps online before adoption, and maintain this dedicated web page for all relevant information about the districting process.

Public hearing notices will be published in the Orange County Register. We will also make a good faith effort to notify community groups of various kinds and residents about the districting process through our social media channels. Our public hearings will be provided in applicable languages if residents submit a request in advance to districting@smwd.com.

Common acronyms in districting:

  • ACS: American Community Survey
  • CDP: Census Designated Place
  • CVAP: Citizen Voting Age Population
  • CVRA: California Voting Rights Act
  • FAIR MAPS Act: Fair and Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivisions (applies to cities and counties)
  • P.L. 94-171: Public Law 94-171
  • ROV: Registrar of Voters
  • SWDB: California Statewide Database
  • BBK: Best Best & Krieger

When can I submit my map?

The public map submission period will open at the December 7, 2022 Public Hearing at which the public participation kit and existing conditions report will be presented to the board. The map submission period will end at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023. The public may submit comments at any time throughout the process during the Public Hearings or to districting@smwd.com

What is the deadline to submit my map?

After the public map submission period is opened at the December 7, 2022 Public Hearing, maps must be received by the District by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023 to be considered by the board. 

Do I have to submit a completed map?

To be considered a viable map for adoption by the board, map proposals must have five contiguous divisions covering the whole District and the percent spread must be under 10%. 

If you want to draw boundaries for only your neighborhood or only a portion of the District, these can also be submitted as public comments during meetings or to districting@smwd.com

Can I submit multiple maps?

Yes, you may submit as many maps as you like – there is no limit. However, we suggest you submit only your top 2-3 preferred maps to assist the Board of Directors in focusing on the map that best represents your community.

What happens to the drafted maps?

Once submitted, maps are considered public records. After you submit your map by the January 13, 2023 deadline, the demographic consultants will generate a standardized demographic profile and map for your proposed division plan. Maps will be available in the Districting Maps section prior to the February 1, 2023 Board meeting.