On November 16, the Kern County Board of Supervisors ended their redistricting process when they voted 4-1 to adopt Draft Plan A3.
Map plan A3 will only make slight changes to the district boundaries and was selected by the Board of Supervisors over alternative maps that would better benefit minorities and local communities in Kern County.
Kern Sol News was able to speak with Lori Pesante, the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) Director of Civic Engagement/Government Relations in order to find out the importance of redistricting, representation, and next steps in the redistricting process.
Q: What is so important about district lines and redistricting boundary lines?
A: So it is important because this is how the elected leaders choose their voters. You’d think that voters choose their elected leaders by voting, right? No, it is handled every 10 years with redistricting where they get to look at a map and say, “Oh well, you know my district over here, those folks are gonna vote for me. And those folks are gonna vote for me, alright! Let’s draw the lines like this.”
Q: Now that the County of Kern has made their decision, what else should residents know about other redistricting opportunities in order to be engaged?
A: School district redistricting: Bakersfield City School District, Kern High School District. Water districts. The City of Bakersfield is also still going through redistricting right now, and the State, so congress, assembly and senate.
Q: What does the community have to gain, or lose, from redistricting boundary lines?
A: Everything, everything yeah everything. When the lines are drawn in such a way that it benefits the people who are already in power, it means that people who are currently disenfranchised will remain disenfranchised.
Q: Who decides on the drafts for potential changes for Kern County’s districts?
A: The supervisors. All 5 of the Board of Supervisors get to decide.
Q: Is there anything the community could do if they didn’t want a certain district altered?
A: They can still provide public comment to the redistricting website, and all of the information on that website has to stay on the website for the next 10 years according to the Fair Maps Act, so they’re always welcomed to submit anything at any time.
Q: What would you say to younger people who could be affected by altered district boundary lines? Why should they care? Also, can you share about the Luna case? Many youth, like myself, were only 9 years old when the last redistricting occurred, what should we know?
A: So we are in year 2 of a pandemic, there is a ton of money in state and federal funding related to COVID relief. A one trillion dollar infrastructure bill was just signed into law today. It is now the case that this Board of Supervisors, that just adopted a map to benefit themselves, will be the ones that have the ability to decide where all of that money gets spent in Kern County. Think about all the things they’re not doing, that’s why this is important. I think climate change might be number one on the list. If folks care about climate action and doing what’s right, this next 10 years is either going to help us live as a race as a species, or send us hurtling towards extinction faster.
The DHF— who created and submitted a redistricting map under the Equitable Map Coalition— along with partnering organizations are now demanding adherence to redistricting criteria in Kern County to ensure that community voices are heard.
“The recently released census data confirms what we’ve known to be the case for years,” stated DHF Executive Director, Camila Chavez. “Our communities are increasingly made up of a rich diversity of constituents and the majority of current elected officials representing them simply are not reflective of the communities they are responsible for representing. The redistricting process as required by law, is one that should result in equitable representation and that’s exactly what our communities are working for.”
Because DHF and these partnering organizations are continuing to fight for fair maps at a State level in the Central Valley, they will be hosting a press conference in Bakersfield tomorrow, December 2. The Bakersfield press conference will begin at 11 a.m. Mill Creek Central Park.
Additionally, DHF and these partnering organizations will be hosting a “Redistricting March for Our Future” demonstration in Fresno on Saturday, December 4 as they continue to fight for fair maps at a State level in the Central Valley.
According to the press release sent out by the DHF, the march demonstration will consist of “dozens of community groups and allies from Kern, Tulare, Kings, Antelope Valley and Fresno counties will come together to demand fair maps, improved public services, and more COVID rescue funds for our Central Valley communities.”
The demonstration will begin at 11:00 a.m. in front of Arte Americas, 1630 Van Ness Ave., Fresno and end at 12 p.m. with a rally at Courthouse Park, 1100 Van Ness Ave., Fresno.
“Our future depends on fair lines, fair funding and fair treatment for all,” the DHF press release concludes.
Partnering organizations include: Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 521, Central California Coalition for Equitable Redistricting (CCCER), Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE), Central Valley Leadership Round
Table (CVLRT), Cultiva de Salud, Central Valley Progressive PAC, Central Labor Council (CLC), Communities for a New California (CNC), Strength Based Community Change (SBCC), and Central Valley Partnership.