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Kern County releases draft redistricting maps, which could shift balance of power on Board of Supervisors | News

Kern County has released the first look at how supervisorial districts could be redrawn to account for new population figures gleaned from the latest census.

On Thursday, the county unveiled a series of proposed maps as part of the agenda for a meeting on Tuesday. Every 10 years, local and state officials update political boundaries in a process known as redistricting. The process could change the representatives for certain neighborhoods, but does not change the borders of cities and counties.

If this all sounds familiar to local residents, that may be because the county went through the same process after the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund successfully filed a lawsuit in 2016, claiming the old district boundaries, which were established in 2011, deprived Latino residents of their voting rights by diluting their populations throughout multiple districts.

Two years later, a federal judge ordered the county to create two Latino-majority districts, which was meant to give Latinos more political power. Still, David Couch, whose district includes northwestern Kern County along with Arvin, won two elections to remain on the board.

The 2020 Census revealed people identifying as Hispanic or Latino had become the majority in Kern County for the first time on record, adding to the argument that the population should have more political power within the county.

Perhaps following such logic, two of the three county-drawn maps add a third Latino-majority district, while one option leaves the districts largely the same. A fourth map drawn by a group calling itself the Equitable Maps Coalition also includes a third Latino-majority district.

“The redistricting process requires that various maps be considered,” County Counsel Margo Raison wrote in an email to The Californian. “Starting with three is merely a starting point for a fluid and iterative process.”

The Dolores Huerta Foundation, which organized the Equitable Maps Coalition, did not respond to a request for comment.

All but one of the new maps would drastically realign political boundaries if approved by supervisors. Currently, eastern Kern County is represented by District 1 in the north and District 2 in the south, with District 2 extending all the way across southern Kern.

The alternative maps would expand District 1 to encompass all of eastern Kern as well as the southern half of the county. The alternative maps would also add a district to the Rosedale area, which is currently represented by the first district.

The alternative maps vary in their boundaries of the metro Bakersfield area, but all would include significant demographic changes for the supervisors who currently represent the areas.

In public comments the county has already collected, a smattering of citizens voiced support for the Equity Coalition map, while others objected to a plan that would move Hart Park from District 3 — currently represented by Mike Maggard — to District 1, which is overseen by Phillip Peters.

“We need to keep the park, Lake Ming, the Kern River Parkway, and riparian areas adjacent to the river as close to the users as possible, where problems can be solved more quickly and efficiently than from the Lancaster-Ridgecrest area,” said one woman identified as Margie Bell. “These areas are used primarily by residents of east Bakersfield. They need the best service available.”

The county will accept additional public comments at its Tuesday meeting. Following a hearing, supervisors will direct staff to refine the maps for future consideration.

“We’re just starting this process with initial draft maps,” Raison said. “Any changes, whether big or small, remains to be seen.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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