In our first look at Humboldt County’s 2020 Census data, we noted that the county gained nearly 2,000 residents between 2010 and 2020, according to the Census Bureau’s best count.

Where did it gain them? It gained them in the northern part of the county — in the Arcata and McKinleyville areas. Other areas of the county shrank, or at least didn’t grow as quickly as those two did.

This is going to create a problem for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and its Redistricting Advisory Commission, which together have to redraw the boundaries of the districts in which county supervisors are nominated and elected. They might reasonably have expected to just tinker with some edges here and there, but as it turns out things are going to be a touch more difficult.

We’ll get to that in a second, but first — let’s take a look at the 2020 Census results mapped onto the current Board of Supervisors’ map:

Here’s the 2020 Census population by district:

  • 1st District: 27,078
  • 2nd District: 26,778
  • 3rd District: 28,233
  • 4th District: 26,285
  • 5th District: 28,089

Now, the whole point of redistricting is that we have to redraw the lines so that each of the five county supervisors represents a roughly equal number of constituents. That means the Arcata-centric Third District and the McKinleyville-centric Fifth District are going to have to shed some population and the others are going to have to gain some — particularly the Eureka-centric Fourth District.

Take the new official county population — 136,463 — and divide it by five. You get 27,292.6. That’s the rough target for what we want each new supervisorial district to be.

Therefore each district needs to lose or gain roughly these many people:

  • 1st District: +215
  • 2nd District: +515
  • 3rd District: -940
  • 4th District: +1,008
  • 5th District: -796

The First District — currently represented by Rex Bohn and currently including Cutten, Ferndale, Petrolia and Scotia — is just about perfect as is. It needs 215 more people to have the ideal number of residents, but that’s pretty close, and maybe even within the bullseye. It’s more than 99 percent of the way there.

Now look at the two most out-of-whack districts. The Fourth District needs about 1,000 new people, and the Third needs to lose about 940. But wait a sec, you say — problem solved! Look at the map above. The two districts border each other! Just let the Third District give the Fourth District, say, Manila, or maybe the Mitchell Heights area. That should even things out real quick! Mitchell Heights probably belongs with Eureka anyway.

That would be a nice solution, but it leaves us with a different problem. Look at the two districts left on the table — the Fifth and the (Fortuna/SoHum) Second. McKinleyville still needs to lose people and SoHum still needs to pick them up.

How to accomplish that? The two districts do border one another — but only along the vast, sparsely upper reaches of the Mad River, near Maple Creek and thereabouts. It would be difficult to cobble together enough people in those regions to make up the difference — and, anyway, it’d be quite a stretch to think of Maple Creek as belonging to the same community as Fortuna or SoHum.

So there’s probably no quick and easy solution, and what that means is a lot of difficult surgery. All the districts’ boundaries — even the First’s! — will probably have to creep some, as the county’s center of gravity shifts northward. It’ll be a headache. Some will probably fight about it, when the time comes. Some people get very emotional about which supervisorial district they belong to.

Are Eureka residents as attached to their Eureka City Council wards? You wouldn’t think they would be, given the fact that they’re so new — voters passed the True Ward Initiative only in 2016 — and the fact that Eureka is a bit more homogeneous, politically, than the county as a whole. But Eureka is going to have to redraw its lines too, and boy oh boy — if you thought the county’s 2010-2020 population shift was kind of dramatic, wait until you see what’s going on inside Eureka city limits.

We’ll talk about that next time.