Judge orders Kern and MALDEF to resolve redistricting battle before end of March

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A federal judge ordered Tuesday that Kern County attorneys and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) attorneys come together and develop a plan to fix the county’s supervisor map by the end of March.

Late last month, a federal judge ruled Kern’s existing supervisor election map violated the Voting Rights Act.

All parties came to Fresno U.S. District Court Tuesday to see if Judge Dale A. Drozd would order new lines be drawn before the June primaries.

For one hour, Judge Drozd heard from both county lawyers, the defendants, and attorneys from MALDEF, the plaintiffs. 

MALDEF hoped Kern’s supervisor maps would be redrawn as soon as possible.

The county’s attorneys hoped to put off redrawing any lines until 2020.

But Judge Drozd said holding off on changing hte maps he deemed illegal, would be “unsatisfactory.”

But instead of ordering a change be made immediately, he ordered the two parties to particpate in a settlement conference on March 28th with Magistrate Judge Jennifer Thurston to work out a plan together moving forward.

County Counsel Mark Nations said the county will comply with this order and join MALDEF lawyers at the negotiating table at the end of the month. 

17 News asked Nations if he has confidence Kern and MALDEF will be able to come to an agreement.

“Yes, oddly, I am somewhat confident in that. Because the one thing they want–as you heard [MALDEF] say, they will not compromise–is the creation of a second majority Latino district. We know you can do that, we’ve seen lots of different maps do that, the question is how,” said Nations.

If they cannot make a decision, Judge Drozed said he will — albeit reluctantly — immediately give his own order for a timeline and schedule of redrawing Kern’s supervisor map. 

Drozd appeared to like a MALDEF proposed solution which would in effect cancel the June primaries for this year’s two supervisor races, redraw the maps, and then hold a normal simple-majority-wins election in November.

But the bottom line is because of this lawsuit, Kern will likely have two Latino majority supervisor districts for the first time by sometime this year.

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