Supervisors Direct Staff to Study Independent Redistricting Panel

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday began the process of turning over future redistricting to an independent commission of retired judges.

The board voted 4-1 to direct the county’s chief administrative officer to return in 120 days with recommendations on proposing legislation to change the California Elections Code and amend the county charter to allow an independent redistricting panel to be established, with recommendations on how the panel would be formed.

County staff was also directed to evaluate future redistricting maps to ensure at least three districts include unincorporated areas, and two districts would be predominantly made up of unincorporated areas.

“It’s a difficult task trying to divide a county the size of the state of Connecticut with over three million people into five nearly equal districts while maintaining communities of interest,” Supervisor Greg Cox said. “It’s not a quick or a simple matter, but we have 10 years to get it done.”

New district maps are drawn every 10 years to adjust the boundaries of the supervisorial districts based on updated U.S. census data, with the final product compliant with the Voting Rights Act. Under current regulations, the board cannot delegate its redistricting responsibilities but can appoint an advisory committee, which the county used in the past two redistricting cycles.

This year, the advisory committee ran the demographic numbers, held public meetings and presented the board several tentative plans. The supervisors eventually approved a modified version of a map created by the
committee.

The supervisors came under criticism during the redistricting process for deciding the final makeup of their districts when both the state of California and city of San Diego had independent commissions which developed and approved new district maps.

“Political districts change, the world changes and we need to change with it,” Cox said. “I think the citizens we were elected to represent want county supervisorial districts drawn independently of supervisors.”

Board Chairman Bill Horn cast the dissenting vote, saying he had a problem “wanting to fix something that’s not broken.”

-City News Service