By Miriam Raftery
August 28, 2012 (San Diego)—San Diego County Supervisors won’t be able to redraw their own district lines or assign hand-picked appointees to do so if Governor Jerry Brown signs Senate Bill 1331 and San Diego voters approve the new plan.
The bill, authored by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), has passed both houses of the state Legislature. It would require retired judges to redraw supervisors’ districts starting in 2021. The bill applies only to San Diego County, where Supervisors have been accused of gerrymandering districts to retain power for conservatives.
All five San Diego Supervisors are white and Republican. They have served together since the mid-1990s. The County has had a majority Democratic registration since 2008.
Every 10 years, political lines must be redrawn based on new census data. Last year, new districts were recommended by a citizens advisory committee—but members were all chosen by the Supervisors.
Not surprisingly, this drew allegations that boundaries were drawn to favor keeping incumbents and Republicans in power while discriminating against San Diego County’s growing minority populations.
“It is an obvious attempt to dilute minority interests,” said Jeanne Brown of Common Cause, which advocates for open government.
Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre threatened to sue the County. Supervisors subsequently voted to carve out the first ever “majority minority” supervisorial district in the South County area represented by Greg Cox, which would have a narrow 52% black and Latino majority among those of voting age. But the plan did nothing to increase representation for minorities in North County Supervisor Bill Horn’s area.
But ultimately, even that plan fizzled as Supervisors refused to give up their power to redraw maps themselves.
Finally, under mounting pressure from civil rights and minority rights groups, Supervisors voted 4-1 to support having the state create an independent panel to redraw the district lines. Supervisor Bill Horn, whose district would likely be most impacted, cast the only “no” vote.
“This bill will increase accountability and take redistricting out of the hands of Supervisors and put it in the hands of retired judges, increasing accountability and transparency for a more public process,” Senator Kehoe said in a written statement.
If signed by Governor Jerry Brown, the bill would still have to be approved by San Diego County voters.
It would not, however, affect any of the current Supervisors, since all five will be termed out of office by the next round of redistrict in 2021.