Judge rules against Kern County in redistricting lawsuit; plaintiffs hope for new map before June

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A federal court ruling against the County of Kern said Latino voters in Kern have not had an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.

Nearly two years ago, Dolores Huerta Foundation Executive Director Camila Chavez stood in this room announcing a lawsuit against Kern County.

Fast forward to Monday, when in the same room Chavez– sister of one of the plaintiffs– marveled that a federal judge ruled Kern’s supervisor map violated the Voting Rights Act. 

“Folks are elated especially from north Kern who feel they have not had the proper representation,” said Chavez.

In 2011 a new map of Kern County’s Supervisor Districts went into effect. 

Five districts, with Latino-heavy Delano, McFarland and Shafter separated from Wasco, yet joined in with Caucasian-heavy Kernville, Ridgecrest and more. 

The only majority-minority–or majority Latino–district was District Five including Lamont and Arvin.

However after a 2016 lawsuit, and a December 2017 bench trial, Federal Judge Dale Drozd ruled with the plaintiffs represented by MALDEF.

“The Latino community in Kern County is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a second majority Supervisorial District […] the court found that the current maps in Kern County were diluting the Latino voters’ ability to elect the candidates of their choice,” said Tanya Pellegrini, a staff attorney from MALDEF.

This means the map lines will have to be redrawn.

But will that happen before this year’s fast approaching June primaries?

“We’re excited about the opportunity to get this moving forward immediately for the 2018 elections. We are inviting people to attend the board of supervisors meeting on Feb. 27 at 9 a.m. on Truxton Avenue because we want to make sure the board of supervisors know the community wants to move this forward, we don’t want this to be stalled any longer,” said Chavez.

In an email, County Counsel Mark Nations said “we will not know until March 6” what timing for redistricting will look like, but he wrote “we believe it is too late at this point to do anything in connection with the June 2018 election.”

Though MALDEF attorney Pellegrini argued if the county fails to rewrite a map soon, the courts could impose a map on the county.

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