State and local governments across the nation are in the process of redrawing district lines to reflect 2020 US Census data. The stakes are high and, in California’s Central Valley, cities and counties are receiving warnings from activists and civil rights groups over the need to ensure fair representation.
In a letter to Fresno County supervisors and the county’s redistricting commission last month, the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California expressed concerns over statements made by three county supervisors earlier this year. Those statements indicated a desire to maintain the status quo, according to the organizations. They warned that any approach which prioritizes maintaining the core of existing districts over the adherence to redistricting criteria would violate federal law.
Some of the supervisors mentioned in the letter have already clarified their previous statements and vowed to follow the law throughout the redistricting process.
Tulare County officials have received similar warnings. A lawyer representing the Delores Huerta Foundation has threatened to sue the county if it does not adequately ensure Hispanic representation with the new district lines.
Tulare County’s population is now 65.5% Hispanic, yet four out of five of its supervisors are non-Latino whites. At least three of the districts should be able to produce a Latino representative, according to Jesus Garcia of La Cuesta Demographics, which was hired by the Huerta Foundation to create proposed redistricting maps. You can view these so-called “Equity maps” or “Huerta maps” here.
“All of the cities, all of the places in Tulare County are kept whole,” Garcia told Our Valley Voice. “They’re kept within one supervisorial district. The only exceptions being Visalia and being Tulare. Tulare and Visalia are split to maintain a dense DAR district (to comply with the Voting Rights Act).”
That part is controversial. Speaking in his capacity as a resident, Tulare City Councilman Patrick Isherwood said Tulare should be kept whole.
Critics say the Equity maps are an attempt at gerrymandering to help elect Democrats. But they’ve been well-received by commissioners so far.