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    Voters Push to Take Local Redistricting From Politicians

    By Nadia Lopez

    California’s independent redistricting commission has received generally good reviews for its new maps that voters are using to elect legislators and members of Congress in November.

    Voters who say they are disenfranchised want similar panels to draw their local districts — and they’ve gone to the Legislature to make that happen.

    Three bills on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would overrule local officials and require independent redistricting commissions in Fresno, Kern and Riverside counties, respectively. If he signs them, those panels would work on districts for the boards of supervisors in those counties, starting after the next Census in 2030.

    “I think people are aware now of how politicians have been using political lines to keep themselves in power. I think people want to see that power in the hands of the people,” said Lori Pesante, civic engagement director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which sponsored Assembly Bill 2030 for the Fresno County citizens commission.

    “Redistricting is very much in the consciousness of the people, so I hope the conditions are ripe now for the governor to sign,” she added.

    While Newsom vetoed a bill in 2019 that would have required all 21 counties with populations of 400,000 or more to establish independent commissions to draw county supervisor districts, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed two other bills to create such panels just in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Under current law, counties are allowed to use advisory or fully independent commissions, but aren’t required to have them.

    The 2022-23 state budget includes $1 million for the Riverside citizens redistricting commission.

    “This failure of a majority of the Board of Supervisors to protect the voting rights of our Latino community illustrates why an independent citizens redistricting commission is needed to draw fair maps for Riverside County,” Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, a Corona Democrat, said in a statement. She authored AB 1307 to create the Riverside commission and is vice chairperson of the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

    Advocates in Riverside County aren’t waiting on a new commission to draw fairer districts in the future. They’re suing to overturn districts drawn by the board of supervisors last year, alleging that the maps disenfranchise Latino voters by splitting them among districts.

    “What we saw happen in Riverside County was pure political self-preservation by the county supervisors,” said Michael Gomez Daly, executive director of Inland Empire United, a coalition that seeks to elect diverse candidates in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. “It had nothing to do with fair representation for the communities that they purport to serve.”

    Representative democracy?

    Riverside County is a prime example of the voting population shifts that can occur from decade to decade — and even more quickly. Within just one year during the pandemic, from July 2020 through July 2021, Riverside County gained 36,000 residents — the third highest county population gain in the nation. Even before that, the county saw 10% growth, with a couple of cities nearly doubling in size from 2010 to 2020.

    It seems logical: The Inland Empire led the country in job growth after the Great Recession. It’s home to warehouses for retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart and Target. Housing is also more affordable than the rest of Southern California.

    Riverside County’s demographics have also shifted, with increases in the Latino population and Asian populations, and decreases in the white population.

    That’s why groups including Inland Empire United and the UCLA Voting Rights Project warned supervisors that the maps they were leaning towards would disenfranchise Latino voters. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say their input on a map with two majority-Latino districts instead of just one was ignored.

    “For months, Riverside residents demanded the county to do the right thing and adopt maps that would lead to equitable and fair representation. Instead, the supervisors ignored the community and adopted maps that would ensure they had easier reelections,” Daly said in a statement in June. “The supervisors’ redistricting plan is a classic case of politicians putting their own interests over people.”

    The plaintiffs are calling on the board to rescind the current map, and adopt one that keeps communities of interest together.

    Similar complaints are behind the bill for a Fresno County commission.

    Critics said that supervisors approved a map that changed little from the 1991 version, despite a growing Latino population.

    “Our county is changing, and Latinos now make up the majority of the population,” Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, said in a statement when he introduced AB 2030. “We can no longer tolerate a process in which elected officials give lip service to following redistricting requirements, ignore public input, and then adopt a map that serves their purposes. This change is long overdue.”

    The bill for the Fresno commission, however, is opposed by both the county and the California State Association of Counties.

    Click here to read the full article at CalMatters


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