Bakersfield · California Redistricting · Politics

Kern Co. lawmakers excoriate Salas-led efforts to strip map-making power

An effort to remove Kern County’s redistricting power has been met with stiff resistance from the county supervisors. 

Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) recently introduced Assembly Bill 2494 to the state Legislature, which would establish an independent commission – not dissimilar to the statewide process – to draw the new lines for the county supervisorial districts every 10 years. 

Currently, the supervisors have the final say in the new district lines. But if Salas’ bill is passed, the supervisors would no longer have any say in the county map. 

Tuesday, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to officially oppose AB 2494 and authorized the county to send a letter to the Legislature voicing its opposition. 

Supervisor Leticia Perez cast the lone “no” vote. 

Salas’ bill follows up Kern County’s redistricting process over the last several months which produced similar lines to the map that was drawn in 2018 following the court order that threw out the 2010 lines for its distribution of Latino voters. 

The bill is sponsored by the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the nonprofit led by the eponymous union organizer. In 2021, the Foundation played heavily in local redistricting efforts to lackluster results.

Salas’ is the second of two bills seeking to strip redistricting authority away from local Boards of Supervisors. The other, drafted by Asm. Joaquin Arambula (D–Fresno) targets the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor David Couch said that this bill is an effort from Salas and others who are disappointed with who is elected to the board. 

Couch’s district was a target in the 2018 redraw as his seat became the second in the county to have a Latino majority. 

Despite the Latino majority, couch won both the 2018 and 2020 elections by around five points. 

“It’s another unfunded mandate,” Couch said. “I think it’s being led by folks that are not getting the desired outcome that they want, so there’s a continual effort to change laws and rules to get that desired outcome.”

Couch also noted how the board is officially nonpartisan as each supervisor does not run as part of a political party. But he argued that AB 2494 adds an element of partisan politics into the county. 

“I think we should just do our best to avoid that whenever we possibly can, and I think we do a fairly good job of that,” Couch said. “I know our staff does. I think we try to avoid that, and this sort of injects partisan politics into a nonpartisan office.” 

Supervisor Phillip Peters echoed Couch and argued that the proposed commission would not do as good of a job as the supervisors at redistricting. 

“I don’t think a group of appointed individuals by the head of the elections department are going to be better suited to district the county than the Board of Supervisors that is elected by and accountable to the voters,” Peters said. “So I disagree very strongly with this bill.” 

Board Chair Scrivner agreed and also expressed his disappointment in Salas for attempting to take local control away from Kern County. 

“I think it’s particularly disappointing when you have a legislator that did serve time in local government – although a very limited amount of time – would bring forward a bill that first imposes an unfunded mandate on the County of Kern, his home county, and secondly is stripping us of local control,” Scrivner said.

“I think those are two very egregious actions that this bill would mean for the County of Kern.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.