Judge curtails attempt to delay SLO County redistricting

By KAREN VELIE

A judge shot down an attempt to temporarily reverse the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors’ adoption of the Patten map on Wednesday, a win for the Republican board majority.

SLO County Citizens for Good Government and three SLO County residents, registered Democrats, filed a lawsuit on Jan. 12 challenging the county’s selection of the Patten map, arguing it benefits the Republican Party at the expense of Democrats and Latinos. The plaintiffs then sought an exparte order to temporarily restrain the county from holding elections based on the new supervisorial district map.

The plaintiffs wanted the court to either revert back to the old boundary map, or select Map A, both of which were promoted by Democratic supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg during the redistricting process.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that many primarily Democratic voters will lose their right to vote in the 2022 election because of redistricting, causing irreparable harm. Superior Court Judge Rita Federman did not agree.

“The right to vote may be delayed, but it will not be eliminated,” Judge Federman wrote in her ruling. “Accordingly, petitioners do not establish a significant showing of irreparable injury.”

Plaintiffs argued that the map chosen by the board majority diluted Latino votes, a claim rejected by Judge Federman, who found “there are no protected class interests at issue in this case.”

While the plaintiffs’ attorney said the 2011 map is considered the status quo map, the county’s attorneys argued the recently adopted Patten map is the status quo map. Judge Federman again agreed with the county.

The newly adopted Patten map places the largest portion of San Luis Obispo in a district with Cal Poly and Morro Bay, which plaintiffs argued was breaking up communities of interest in favor of keeping the city more intact, which is a lower priority. Judge Federman rejected the claim, writing that cities can be considered communities of interest.

As for plaintiffs’ argument that the county should have considered whether the adopted map favored or discriminated against a political party, Judge Federman agreed. Even so, the judge found the plaintiffs unlikely to succeed on the merits of the case.

While it is illegal to draw a district to favor or disfavor a political party, “the mere fact that a particular reapportionment may result in a shift in political control of some legislative districts … falls short of demonstrating such a purpose,” according to the ruling.

As a result of the ruling, candidates for the June 7 election will rely on the Patten map to determine their district. While the plaintiffs lost their motion for a temporary restraining order, the case is ongoing with a case management conference scheduled in March.

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