County to hold redistricting hearings to receive input on where district lines should be drawn

July 15, 2021 /

Kern County is holding a series of redistricting hearings beginning Monday to receive public input from community members on where district lines should be drawn. 

This is the next part of the redistricting process, as the final 2020 Census data has come in. Redistricting is a process mandated by the U.S Constitution following every decennial census count. 

“Districting is the initial process of moving from a system that we call at-large to a districted system,” said Sophia Garcia, the Geographic Information Systems and Outreach Director for Redistricting Partners. 

An at-large system allows people to vote and elect board members, regardless of their zip code. For example, Delano is considered an at-large district. None of Delano’s City Council members oversee one specific district. Instead, they collectively oversee the entire city. 

On the other hand, each Bakersfield City Council member oversees one district, and only residents who live in that district can vote and elect a council member to represent their area. 

“So redistricting is the rebalancing and redrawing of those boundary lines after the Census,” said Garcia. 

Redistricting impacts all areas of government, including Kern County districts, city districts, school boards and beyond. This is done because over the course of ten years, a lot can change. The total population changes, housing changes, and Kern County’s land changes.

Redistricting experts consider this process crucial in obtaining equitable representation on government boards. If the district lines are not drawn properly, communities may be left with representatives who do not understand their issues or needs.  

This happened in Kern County in 2017, when three out of five Kern County Board of Supervisors lived very close to each other. Advocates saw this as an issue because the supervisors were not spread out enough to properly represent residents in their districts. This resulted in the 2017 case of Luna v. Kern County. 

According to The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) website, Kern County violated Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act when the County redrew district lines in 2011. 

in 2018, Judge Drozd declared the 2011 map unlawful.  

“The boundary between District 1 and District 4 unlawfully fractured a large cohesive Latino community, submerging their votes in a larger white electorate in both districts, thereby diluting Latino voters’ ability to participate effectively in the political process,” the MALDEF website says.

Advocates are urging the community to get involved in the redistricting process to prevent another map that underrepresents people of color. 

The hope is to have the boundary lines drawn so that the members are accurately representing their communities. 

“If the (representatives) are not representing your interests, it could be because they’re not where you’re from,” said Lori Pesante, a redistricting advocate with the Dolores Huerta Foundation. “And if they’re not from where you’re from, then we (have to) draw the districts so they have to be from where you’re from.”

According to a Kern County media release, the county will be hosting two virtual redistricting workshops and one hybrid workshop with translation services in English, Spanish, and Punjabi. The first  session will be held on the Monday, July 19 at 6 p.m. The second public hearing will be on July 20 at 6 p.m., and the third and last one will be on July 31 at 10 a.m. located in the Kern County Board of Chambers. 

Zoom link information for these meetings and the agendas can be found here: https://www.kerncounty.com/government/2021-redistricting/2021-redistricting-english/2021-redistricting-public-hearings-english 

Kern County has also launched a website dedicated to this endeavor with detailed information about the local redistricting process.

Please visit: https://www.kerncounty.com/government/2021-redistricting-menu

JaNell Gore

JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Bakersfield College. In addition to writing for South Kern Sol, Ja'Nell is involved with several clubs at her school. Ja'Nell enjoys writing and listening to spoken word.