Judge rules in favor of redrawing district lines

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Judge rules in favor of redrawing district linesA judge’s ruling in favor of redrawing Kern County districts is a victory for the Latino alliance filing suit, but a blow to outlying rural communities that stand to lose representation in the process.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, represented by Attorney Denise Hulett, filed a claim that supervisorial districts should be redrawn to reflect the county’s demographics. While the most recent census data shows that more than 50 percent of Kern County residents have some Hispanic heritage, only one of the five supervisors is a Latino.

On Feb. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd ruled that 2011 boundaries were drawn in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, depriving the Latinos from electing a second supervisor.

The timeline for redistricting will not be known until March 6.

On Feb. 22 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason briefed attendees of the IWV Economic Outlook Conference on the pending lawsuit and warned that a ruling in favor of MALDEF could impact the rural communities of East Kern — currently represented by him and 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner.

“We already have one special district in Kern County — District 5. They want a second one.”

Gleason said the implication of having boundaries redrawn is that Kern will become increasingly Bakersfield-centric — “it would imply advantages to the metropolitan areas.”

The MALDEF proposal eliminates the second vote in East Kern, he said, while increasing representation in West Kern.

“It is critical we keep to votes in East Kern,” he said. “For the issues that are important to us, I am glad to know that I have Zack Scrivner beside me, because I know he also represents the values and interests of East Kern.”

That includes industry more or less unique to our side of the mountains — including defense, aerospace and non-fossil-fuel forms of energy.

Hulett is requesting that lines be redrawn immediately — even if it means delaying the 2018 election.

“I think that the order is unassailable,” she said. “We have proven that Latinos support Latino candidates and other voters, in general, don’t. That’s why it’s time to face the music.”

However, Scrivner noted during his testimony in December that claim does not necessarily hold true. When he ran against Steve Perez in 2010, voter data indicated that a majority of latino voters supported Scrivner.

On page 32 of the court ruling, Dr. Koussler analyzed results to draw conclusions about racial polarity, and determined that Scrivner was indeed the Latino-preferred candidate in his race. He did, however, conclude that 19 of the 22 elections he analyzed were racially polarized to a statistically significant degree.

Depending on how the lines are redrawing, Scrivner — who lives in Tehachapi, located in the proposed combined district — may not have a seat to run for.

Since Kern County’s devastating budget crisis began in 2015, outlying communities — particularly those in the East Kern — have lost services ranging from fire protection to sheriff patrols to dental to libraries and more.

With one less voice for the outlying areas, residents fear that the trend of consolidating services in metropolitan Kern while cutting off support to extremities will only worsen.

The case goes back to Drozd in Fresno on March 6. The county could appeal any demand for a 2018 boundary change to the 9th District Court of Appeal.

Pictured: Court documents show drawings of Kern County with current district lines (left), and proposed lines (right).

Story First Published: 2018-03-02