BERKELEY -- Some two dozen supporters of a referendum that could invalidate a City Council redistricting ordinance converged on City Hall steps late Tuesday afternoon to celebrate what they said was their success at collecting at least 5,400 valid signatures, 150 more than required.
"We defied expectations," said UC Berkeley student Stefan Elgstrand, holding a large box of petitions, as latecomers added more.
The crowd delivered the petitions to the city clerk just before the 5 p.m. deadline. The clerk will ascertain that there are at least the requisite 5,250 signatures, then pass the petitions to the Alameda County registrar of voters, who has 30 business days to verify signatures.
The redistricting ordinance approved Dec. 19 by the City Council redraws boundaries of the eight districts to equalize the population in each at about 14,000.
District 7 Councilman Kriss Worthington, whose district is the most impacted by the new boundaries, said the council-approved version of District 7 would encompass a more moderate electorate, since it includes fewer student cooperatives than the current district configuration, which Worthington said has residents who vote more progressively.
The redrawn district would add fraternities and sororities, which he said vote more moderately.
A more moderate electorate could force the almost-18-year progressive council member out of office. Redistricting should not be politicized "to undermine progressive political power in Berkeley," Worthington told the gathering.
Referendum opponents say the important issue is to have a district with a student supermajority -- the ordinance the council passed includes about 86 percent people of student age -- and contend that it doesn't matter which student-age constituents are included.
If the referendum is successful, the city still must equalize its districts.
The City Council can choose to place a redistricting ordinance before the voters, or it can write a compromise redistricting plan that won't face a new referendum.