SLO County staff misrepresents the Election Code in staff report

County Counsel Rita Neal

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County will consider which redistricting maps to move forward at a special meeting tonight, as the county works to set supervisory district boundaries which will stand for the next decade.

County staff is promoting four maps drawn in compliance with a partisan proposal to keep Oceano in District 4, which supports the election of candidate Jimmy Paulding over incumbent Lynn Compton. Oceano has a majority of voters who register Democrat, while most of District 4 swings Republican.

County staff reviewed a letter endorsed by 227 voters and organizations, including only six Republicans, that asked the supervisors to keep Oceano in District 4.

With the help of a consultant, county staff created four draft maps that “keep the town of Oceano in the same district as Arroyo Grande and Nipomo as a community of interest,” and take into account public input, according to the staff report. In each map, Oceano remains in District 4 and the city of San Luis Obispo is divided into at least two districts.

For decades, the state has required that supervisors divide districts based on population numbers, that redistricting complies with the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and that redistricting is not done to favor or discriminate against any political party.

In 2019, the state passed Assembly Bill 849, which also requires county boards of supervisors “adopt supervisorial district boundaries using the following criteria as set forth in order of priority:

“(1) To the extent practicable, supervisorial districts shall be geographically contiguous. Areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous. Areas that are separated by water and not connected by a bridge, tunnel, or regular ferry service are not contiguous.

“(2) To the extent practicable, the geographic integrity of any local neighborhood or local community of interest shall be respected in a manner that minimizes its division.

“(3) To the extent practicable, the geographic integrity of a city or census designated place shall be respected in a manner that minimizes its division.

“(4) Supervisorial district boundaries should be easily identifiable and understandable by residents. To the extent practicable, supervisorial districts shall be bounded by natural and artificial barriers, by streets, or by the boundaries of the county.

“(5) To the extent practicable, and where it does not conflict with the preceding criteria in this subdivision, supervisorial districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness in a manner that nearby areas of population are not bypassed in favor of more distant populations.”

In their report, county staff notes that the California Elections Code requires new supervisorial districts be redrawn based on the five criteria.

Staff lists the five priorities listed above, with one major change: Staff replace the fifth priority with the requirement “not to favor or discriminate against any political party.” The inaccurate portrayal of the Election Code appears to support keeping Oceano in District 4 and dividing the city San Luis Obispo into three districts.

In their report, county staff promotes the four redistricting maps they helped create.  County residents created an additional six maps, with two that place the city of San Luis Obispo in one district and Oceano in District 3.

SLO County staff’s four proposed maps:

In Map A, districts remain primarily unchanged.

 

In Map B, Cal Poly is moved from District 5 to District 2.

 

Map C takes Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo out of District 5.

 

In Map D, the supervisory districts align more with school districts.

 

Two maps drawn by county residents

Communities of interest map with the city of San Luis Obispo as one district and Oceano in District 3.

 

Map submitted by Richard Patten of Arroyo Grande with the city of San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly and Morro Bay in one district.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors will discuss the proposed maps Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the government center.

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