On June 14, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Inland Empire United (IEU) and six individuals, challenging the legality of the Riverside County redistricting plan. The plan was based on the 2020 Census results. The board of supervisors adopted it Dec. 21, 2021 and it was applied to the primary election held June 7.
The first hearing for the challenge will be Aug. 15 in Riverside.
Since the lawsuit was filed after this election, were the results to be accepted or would the suit challenge them? Julia Gomez of the ACLU spoke with the Town Crier to help answer these questions and clarify what steps lie ahead.
Gomez did stress that neither the June primary nor the November General Election are targets of the litigation. If the ACLU prevails, she hopes the 2024 primary and election will be held with revised districts.
Although the board’s action to approve the new districts was about six months ago, the lawyers took time to ensure they were working directly with the communities affected. They were not waiting for the primary, she said.
The suit alleges the plan is discriminatory and unrepresentative of the county’s population. The suit argues that the board should have chosen a plan that would have created two districts with a majority Latino population. By failing to make that decision, the board and county are diluting the Latino vote and limiting the Latino population’s opportunity to equally participate in the county political process, according to the ACLU filing.
“… the 2021 Redistricting Plan splits up politically cohesive Latino communities among districts 1, 2, and 5, shutting out Latino voters in cities like Jurupa Valley and Moreno Valley from the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” the filing claimed. The complaint ACLU is making alleges, “The 2021 Redistricting Plan perpetuates this history of disenfranchisement and marginalization by abridging Latino residents’ fundamental right to vote on account of their race, color, or membership in a language minority group in violation of the California ‘FAIR MAPS’ Act [Fair and Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivisions] and the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution.”
The solution, according to the plaintiffs, is for the board to adopt a supervisorial district map that comports with the FAIR MAPS Act and the state Constitution. The purpose would be to ensure that neither of the Latino communities of interest centered around either northwest Riverside and Jurupa Valley or around Perris and Moreno Valley are split across different supervisorial districts.
Supervisors Karen Spiegel (2nd District), V. Manuel Perez (4th District) and Jeff Hewitt (5th District) were up for re-election in the June 7 primary. Perez and Spiegel were unopposed and, therefore, re-elected. Hewitt finished second in a close race with Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez. They will be competing for the seat on the November ballot.
Although the lawsuit was filed after this election, the results are not the focus of the challenge, Gomez stated.
“I’m looking for the 2024 election,” Gomez said. “If by 2024, there are new maps that’s great.”
The new county districts place the Hill communities — Idyllwild, Pine Cove, Mountain Center, Sage and Anza — in District 4, which Perez currently represents. If Gomez is correct, that neither of the 2022 elections will be challenged, then Perez will become the Hill’s supervisor in January.
Also, she opined that adoption of the IEU’s proposed redistricting map, referred to in the filing as Community Map 1.4, is not the specific goal of the litigation. “It’s a process with the court and the county. It’s essential that the Riverside and Jurupa communities and the Perris and Moreno Valley communities remain together like 1.4 did.”
While a new plan might be similar to Community Map 1.4, it does not have to be identical if the separated communities are re-united and a Latino candidate has a fair chance, given the Latino total and voting age populations.
Gomez could not estimate a reasonable time frame for a conclusion to the litigation. There are too many variables, including the county’s actions in response to the suit, to offer a reliable prediction, she averred.