Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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By law, each of the District’s eight wards has to have roughly the same population. In the last census, downtown and Capitol Hill gained people, so Wards 2 and 6 had to shrink. Wards east of the Anacostia River, though, lost population, and their share of the map had to grow. Lots of Capitol Hill types didn’t want to get redistricted into comparatively down-market Wards 7 and 8—and turned up at meeting after meeting to say so very loudly.

But why did they care? It’s not like the redistricting meant anyone’s home would be further from where they work, shop, or play. Some people cited “neighborhood cohesion,” the idea that west-of-the-river people have fundamentally different concerns. Others were more transparently focused on keeping a parking sticker that would allow them to drive to Eastern Market. Mostly, though, a lot of them just really liked their councilmember, Tommy Wells, and were willing to work to make sure they weren’t represented by Yvette Alexander or Marion Barry.

Ultimately, changes were minimal: Alexander got the 2,000 residents in the D.C. Jail, while ceding Barry enough of her territory to balance everything out. But not before tempers were inflamed and feelings hurt—all over an issue that, in theory, doesn’t matter.