Advocacy to Provide Latinos Proper Representation in Redistricting Continues in Kern County

Redistricting Kern County Board of Supervisors District Map

Kern County’s Latino population has been disenfranchised in the local democratic process for the past 20 years. In 1991, the Kern County Board of Supervisors (BOS) created one Latino-majority district, District 5, and since then has used the “Voting Rights Act District” to minimally satisfy Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The federal law requires the creation of a minority-majority district where a minority 1) is sufficiently large and geographically compact enough to create a single-member district 2) is politically cohesive, and 3) votes sufficiently as a bloc.

In 2011, after the 2010 U.S. Census, the BOS decided to redistrict and tasked the Kern County Administrative Office (CAO) with hosting public hearings in communities throughout Kern County for their input. Through this redistricting process, the CAO intended to continue only having one Latino-majority district despite the Latino population being large enough to create two Latino-majority districts in the County.

Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) members, Vecinos Unidos, (“Vecinos”), attended the public hearing held in Lamont. The group proposed to the CAO representative to create a district with the Latino population towns of Buttonwillow, Delano, McFarland, Lost Hills, Shafter and Wasco in order to have another Latino-majority district. All these communities shared, and continue to share, a similar socioeconomic background as immigrants, farmworkers, low income, Spanish speaking and in lifestyle. This is what defines a community of interest. A factor to consider when creating districts is keeping communities of interest together.

The CAO and BOS disregarded their input and decided to create a district cutting out Delano from its neighboring communities, and instead, Delano was placed in a district with Ridgecrest, a community roughly 130 miles west of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The Dolores Huerta Foundation objected to the idea of including Delano with Ridgecrest not only because they did not share similar characteristics but also because the 18,000 prisoners at the Delano prison were not counted. The CAO representative told DHF that the prison in Delano could not be included as part of the population; this was not true.

When the BOS officially presented their maps in 2011, the DHF warned the Board they were violating the Voting Rights Act and requested more public hearings. In August of 2011, the foundation submitted a formal letter from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and one from DHF informing them the foundation would sue the BOS if they went forward with these maps that deprived Latinos from representation. However, one week later, the Board approved their maps despite DHF’s and the Vecinos’ objections.

Not having the resources to file the lawsuit sooner, on April 22, 2016, MALDEF filed the lawsuit against the Kern County Board of Supervisors under the federal Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit concluded with the U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd ordering the County to work with MALDEF to draw new lines. The Kern County Board of Supervisors now has two Latino-majority districts as of March 26, 2018.

The new maps now have a second Latino-majority district and are in place for the November 2018 elections where two of the supervisors will be on the ballot. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Redistricting Kern High School District’s Trustee Area Map

Attorneys working with the Dolores Huerta Foundation approached the Kern High School District (KHSD) to also address the lack of representation of South Kern on the Board and the dilution of the Latino vote. Like the Kern County Board of Supervisors, the KHSD currently has only one effective Latino-majority district and DHF seeks an additional Latino-majority district. To prevent a lawsuit, the KHSD has been holding public hearings to redraw district lines and holding public forums in the process of creating new electoral districts.

So far, the DHF has provided a map proposal along with the best practices to redrawing the school district’s lines. The Dolores Huerta Foundation recommends the following best practices in order of importance:

Equal population among districts,

Geographic compactness,

Line contiguity,

Preservation of local political subdivisions,

Preservation of communities of interest, and

Protection of incumbents.

Currently, three school board trustees from Districts 1, 3 and 4 live within a three-mile radius from each other in the affluent Rosedale neighborhood. Their districts in total cover 2,500 square miles of land. These three board members from one neighborhood make decisions for ALL of Kern County’s communities including South Kern’s disenfranchised farmworker population. More than 70% of the students in the Kern High School district are students of color. South Kern’s residents’ requests for an additional high school in Lamont have fallen on deaf ears. The trustees have been more interested in the protection of the current trustees thereby keeping the concentration of power in the more affluent district.

The Dolores Huerta Foundation is waiting on the Board of Trustees to correct the current district lines to provide our communities with proper and effective representation in the leadership IN the Kern High School District. Keep attuned on these current proceedings. For more information on the maps already presented on behalf of the Board, please visit the KHSD’s Web site at https://www.kernhigh. org/apps/pages/boardpresentations. For DHF’s maps, you may visit http://doloreshuerta.org/ gis-geographic-information-systems/. For more information on the ongoing redistricting plans, please contact Gerald Cantu at gcantu@doloreshuerta.org or 661-322-3033 ext. 209.

More about the Dolores Huerta Foundation

The Dolores Huerta Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to inspire and organize communities to build volunteer organizations empowered to pursue social justice. The foundation organizes at the grassroots level developing natural leaders by establishing Vecinos Unidos (“United Neighbors”) chapters in California’s Central Valley region including Arvin, Lamont, Weedpatch, Lindsay, Woodlake, Sanger and Parlier. We create leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development and civic engagement. DHF’s Vecinos Unidos chapters work on policy advocacy in health and environment as well as education and youth development. Learn more about the Dolores Huerta Foundation at www.doloreshuerta. org.

Call to Action

The Dolores Huerta Foundation’s civic engagement team is currently collecting signatures for the Schools & Communities First initiative until Saturday, June 30, 2018. As an anchor organization with the statewide California Calls coalition, we submitted a ballot measure to protect California from the recent federal tax giveaway for millionaire, billionaire and corporate landowners. Our aim is to collect 900,000 signatures! To learn more about how you can sign our petition, or about Schools & Communities First, please contact Jess Contreras, Civic Engagement Coordinator at 661-322-3033 ext. 204 or ycontreras@doloreshuerta.org.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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