BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — On Monday night, California’s Citizen’s Redistricting Committee approved new congressional and state legislative maps. In an effort to create a Latino majority congressional district, one thin strip of land could bring major changes to Kern County’s political landscape.
“They have taken an arm out of the seat just to pick up all the Republicans in Hanford, Visalia and Tulare so that they could create other districts next to it, that could only elect Democrats,” Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said.
Abernathy said this is because of the the Voting Rights Act. A decades-old federal law, in California, the voting rights act seeks to ensure minorities can elect a representative of their choice. Abernathy says it’s a political game but Democratic Political Analyst Neel Sannappa has another take.
“What the voting rights does is it ensures that these Latino communities can be together and vote together,” Sannappa said.
In the final congressional map approved Monday, Kern County will have one majority white district and one that is majority Latino.
The district given the last-minute new arm into Hanford is the 20th District and is most likely to be represented by Kevin McCarthy. It not only includes a large portion of Bakersfield, but also stretches all the way to the Fresno suburb of Clovis.
But, it turns out, one thin, strip can have a big impact on the county’s political landscape as a whole.
“Before they drew the new lines, particularly on the Valadao seat, Democrats were lining up to run in it,” Abernathy said. “I’m sure they will even more now because voter registration.”
The new 22nd District shares the most land with David Valadao’s current boundaries. Abernathy says the arm takes likely Republican voters out of this district and could make an already competitive race for Valadao even more difficult if this is where he chooses to run again.
Sannappa said this will strengthen participation from local Democrats in the area. “What we will see is more investment from the Democratic party into the city of Bakersfield, more so than we have seen in the past,” he said.