After complaints of unfairness in redistricting Fresno County political lines, an independent commission will make those determinations instead.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Sunday that he signed AB 2030 by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno. It establishes an independent commission to draw future Board of Supervisor district boundaries.
“I’m sincerely grateful to Governor Newsom for listening to the community and signing my bill, AB2030,” Arambula said via email, crediting the Dolores Huerta Foundation for sponsoring the bill.
“Establishing an independent citizens redistricting commission will ensure a more inclusive process that reflects the diversity of Fresno County – it puts the power in the hands of its people and not elected officials,” said Arambula.
Board Used to Draw the Lines
The most recent redistricting process was completed last year following the 2020 Census, Fresno County Supervisors voted on only slight changes to their districts. They supported a recommendation from an advisory committee.
Members of the public and advocacy groups submitted maps for consideration. Ultimately, the advisory committee and the board selected a version of a map recommended by the conservative group Fair Representation Coalition.
Social justice advocates complained that the map did not accurately reflect the county’s changing demography, especially for the Hispanic population. They advocated for a map that would have split a district east-west along Highway 41.
Three of the five supervisor districts were majority Latino in population in the redistricting map adopted in December 2021.
“Amy and I are very proud of our son. The new law he authored will ensure that in Fresno County everyone’s voice is heard in the future,” former Assemblyman Juan Arambula texted GV Wire. Juan and his wife Amy were vocal supporters of what they called more “equitable” maps.
The 14-member commission will be in place by 2030 to draw the five supervisorial districts based on the 2030 Census.
Supervisor boundaries are examined every ten years based on U.S. Census data. Lines are adjusted to ensure roughly equal population for all five supervisor districts. Districts must also be drawn to allow for fair representation of ethnic minority groups to chose their own representative.
“This bill is another example of local control being taken away,” Supervisor Nathan Magsig, R-Clovis, said.
Supervisor Buddy Mendes, R-Riverdale, called the bill signing “disappointing.”
“It basically gives Marxists activist groups a chance to … they’re going to be the ones that will put all their names in so it would almost be impossible for an average citizen to get put on the so-called redistricting committee,” Mendes said.
How Commissioners Will Be Selected
The county elections officer would be responsible for selecting a pool of 60 qualified applicants. From there, a random drawing will select eight members, with at least one from each of the five supervisor districts.
The eight commissioners would then select the remaining six members. The 14-member board would roughly reflect the political registration for the county.
“The Dolores Huerta Foundation is thrilled that the legislature heard the residents of Fresno County and signed AB 2494, establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors beginning in 2030,” said the group’s executive director, Camila Chavez, via text. “For the first time Fresno County residents will draw local lines, resolving the inherent conflict of interest that exists whenever politicians draw their own districts.”
Based on today’s numbers, approximately six members would be Democrats; five would be Republicans; two would be no party preference; and one would be from another party (American Independent, Green, Libertarian or Peace and Freedom).
AB 2030 would also bar anyone who has held or run for public office in the previous 10 years from serving on the commission. It would also prohibit family members of those running or holding office, and employees or consultants of those running or holding office from serving.
Anyone selected for the commission would be precluded from holding elected office for five years after their service and could not work as a staffer or consultant for three years.
The governor also signed similar bills for Riverside and Kern counties on Sunday. Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco counties already have an independent commissions in place.
Newsom vetoed a 2019 bill that would require independent commissions for counties with populations greater than 400,000.