Two new proposals in the California Legislature would remove power from the hands of a pair of San Joaquin Valley-based county Boards of Supervisors to draw their own district lines.
Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) recently introduced Assembly Bill 2494, which would create an independent commission in Kern County that would handle redistricting for supervisorial seats.
Currently, the state uses an independent commission to draw the Congressional and Legislative districts, and Los Angeles County also follows the same blueprint.
“The process would take the power to draw biased electoral maps away from the politicians and instead have an independent, qualified group of bipartisan community members in charge of redistricting,” Salas told The Bakersfield Californian.
“With input from the public, this commission would create fair electoral districts that make sure that everyone has equal representation in Kern County.”
The commission would be made up of 14 members and include a roughly equal number of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Salas’ bill comes after Kern County’s new supervisorial lines that were recently approved closely resemble the districts that were drawn in 2018, when the county had to draw a new map after being sued by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund over the distribution of Latino voters.
That effort saw the creation of a second Latino-majority seat, currently held by Supervisor David Couch.
Couch, a white Republican, has twice won re-election under the Latino majority boundaries.
Salas’ efforts arrive closely after Asm. Joaquin Arambula (D–Fresno) introduced a bill last month that would create an independent commission to draw the districts for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
“Fresno County must have an independent citizens redistricting commission that will seriously listen to the voices of people demanding representation that truly reflects their communities and will address their issues,” Arambula said in a statement at the time.
“Our county is changing, and Latinos now make up the majority of the population. 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.”
Activists supporting the changes to the county redistricting process includes United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, whose foundation has sponsored the efforts.
Speaking to the Assembly election committee last week, Huerta compared redistricting in Fresno County to the current war in Ukraine.
“We see what is happening in Ukraine, where people are being murdered, because Russia wants to take over their country and wants to represent them,” Huerta said. “What we have here is something very similar, of course, on a different scale.”