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San Diego County To Keep Firm Hand On Redistricting

Audio

Aired 12/8/10

Like the State of California and the City of San Diego, the County must consider district boundary lines every 10 years, after the latest census. San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors has decided to keep a firm hand on the process.

Like the State of California and the City of San Diego, the County must consider district boundary lines every 10 years, after the latest census.

San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors has decided to keep a firm hand on the process, in spite of signs that the voters prefer redistricting to be more insulated from political influence.

Ten years ago, both the county and the state appointed commissions to redraw the boundaries of legislative districts. But this June, California voters decided they wanted to see a more independent redistricting commission for both state and federal offices.

Bob Stern of the Los Angeles-based Center for Government Studies said counties would be well advised to do the same. But he said it is hard for incumbents to voluntarily let go of control of their own district boundaries.

He said the bottom line is that elected officials always prefer to decide who their voters are, as opposed to the voters deciding who their elected officials are.

Attorney Mike Aguirre unsuccessfully sued the county 10 years ago, in an attempt to open up redistricting and create more diverse representation on the board. He pointed out San Diego board members are all Republicans, all white and have all served multiple four-year terms. According to Aguirre, it is a conflict of interest for the board to appoint the people who would recommend changes to their district boundaries.

He said appointing an advisory board will allow the Supervisors to do what they did last time: ignore the recommendations and do what they want to do behind closed doors. In that process Supervisor Bill Horn excluded Escondido and gained Rancho Santa Fe for his North County district.

Doug Johnson, of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College, said San Diego County is no different from many other California counties that conduct redistricting this way. He said San Diego and Modesto are the only cities to have adopted a different process to make redistricting more independent, and less political. In San Diego, the new redistricting commission was appointed by a panel of three retired Superior Court judges.

San Diego County Supervisors have directed their County Counsel to return to the board in January with a resolution to establish a redistricting advisory committee. They will each have one appointment.

Any changes to the district boundaries should be in place in time for the June primary in 2012. San Diego’s five Supervisors have each held office for at least four terms. A term limit initiative passed by voters this spring won’t take effect for another eight years.

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