The Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ approval of new supervisorial boundaries based on the 2020 federal census may not be the final decision on where the lines are drawn.
Prior to the Dec. 7 vote, the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent the Riverside County supervisors and redistricting staff a letter arguing that only the Community Map satisfied the criteria of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Tuesday night, Dec. 7, after the vote, three Riverside County Democratic Assembly members — Sabrina Cervantes (Corona), Eduardo Garcia (Coachella),and Jose Medina (Riverside) — expressed their dismay at the board’s decision.
“Numerous civil rights organizations joined me in publicly warning the county about the dangers of violating the Voting Rights Act,” Cervantes stated on her Facebook page.
In their opinion, Map F, the choice of the majority of the board, “violates state and federal law by intentionally fracturing compact and cohesive communities of Latino voters into multiple districts.”
During the discussion of the three maps, separately, board Chair Karen Spiegel (District 2) and Chuck Washington (District 3) asked the Executive Office Technical Committee’s counsel whether the maps being reviewed meet the criteria of the VRA.
Washington posed the question early in the discussion. Later, after the choice was narrowed to Map F and the Community Map, Spiegel again asked counsel to confirm the maps’ status.
“Each of the three maps satisfies the Voting Rights Act. With respect to potential litigation, each map carries its own degree of risk,” EOTC counsel Ronak Patel said, responding to Washington. He was supported by special counsel.
The ACLU letter specifically stated, “The Board must adopt a map with at least two Latino citizen voting age population [LCVAP] majority districts where Latino voters have an effective opportunity to elect candidates of choice. Compliance with the Voting Rights Act must take priority over almost all factors except equality of population.”
ACLU argued that the county’s Latino communities are large and compact enough to comprise two effective LCVAP-majority districts. And Map 1.4 does that with its districts 2 and 5.
In its letter, ACLU objected to Maps F and H, because they “… crack these cohesive communities into several districts so that Latino voters are the minority in all but one district that is just barely majority LCVAP.”
Supervisor V. Manuel Perez (District 4) appeared to be more convinced by the ACLU arguments than county counsel. During his comments in favor of the Community Map, he insisted it was the only choice that met the VRA criteria. Therefore, selecting this map would avoid having a decision made by a judicial body.
The three Assembly members supported Perez for “for his efforts to fight for a fair redistricting process.”
They also expect litigation over the decision. “We fear that hardworking Riverside County taxpayers will ultimately be forced to foot the county’s bill for an expensive lawsuit defending a map that is legally indefensible.”
In an email to the Town Crier, Washington said, “Map F appeared to me to be the best option to keep communities of interest together and comply with other aspects of voting laws, including giving minority groups the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.
“As a result, the board adopted a map that is compliant with the Federal Voting Rights Act and the California Fair Maps Act,” he continued. “The final map, which has at least two effective Latino opportunity-to-elect districts, was achieved as a result of the focus and dedication from a team committed to ensuring we achieve fair and equal representation.”
Further evidence of Cervantes dismay with the action of the supervisors, she announced that her proposed legislation (AB 1307) to place future redistricting decisions in the hands of a citizen commission rather than the board, would finally come before a state Assembly committee. A citizen’s redistricting commission is already used in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
In her Facebook post, Cervantes wrote, “My Assembly Bill 1307 will create an independent citizens redistricting commission to draw districts for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors beginning in 2030. The need for this bill is illustrated by the fact that this week, a majority of the board of supervisors approved a district map that intentionally dilutes the voting power of our Latino community, which is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Cervantes introduced the bill in March, but no action had yet been taken on it.
Neither Perez nor Cervantes returned phone calls asking for comments.