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SD Supervisor Cox To Propose More Independent County Redistricting

Aired 10/11/11 on KPBS News.

San Diego County Supervisors are among the first county officials in the state to consider relinquishing control over their own district boundary lines. Supervisor Greg Cox will propose an alternative to his colleagues today.

State and federal districts were redrawn by independent commissions this year, but San Diego County Supervisors still have final say over the borders of their own districts.

Supervisor Greg Cox’s South Bay district was modified, after the ACLU charged it did not give enough voting power to growing minorities measured by the census.

Cox wants a change in state law to allow San Diego supervisors to adopt a different way of redrawing their own boundary lines.

“It’s probably time,” he said, “ for the County of San Diego to at least raise the question - to find out if we can get a bill through the legislature that would allow an independent commission to select the districts that we would be running in.”

Cox wants a panel of independent judges to decide on the boundary lines after the next census.

Barry Pollard, a member of the African American community in Cox’s district, said this is only a small step in the right direction. He wants citizens involved in the process

“I think it would be nice,” he said, “if those three judges they want to appoint would appoint 'x' amount of people from the community to help make that decision.”

Jeanne Brown, vice president of the San Diego chapter of the League of Women Voters, says the league believes redistricting should not be done to protect incumbents or give preferential treatment to one political party.

"Responsibility for redistricting preferably should be vested in an independent redistricting commission," she told the board, "with membership that includes citizens at large, representatives of public interest groups and minority group interests."

Supervisor Dianne Jacob also wondered why a panel of retired judges would be better than a panel of citizens. But most of the other supervisors expressed support for the idea of using a panel of judges.

Jacob was also concerned that unincorporated areas might some day lose influence on the board. She said, regardless of how district lines are drawn in the future, she wants at least three of the five supervisors to have residents of unincorporated areas among their constituents.

Redistricting has proved controversial in several counties this year. But the California Association of Counties has no record so far of other counties looking for an alternative that is more independent.

Supervisor Cox said it could take four or five years to change state law and the county charter. The issue will come back before the board in four months.

The next time the county district boundaries will be redrawn will be after the 2020 census. Supervisor Pam Slater Price pointed out that all of the five incumbents will be off the board by then.

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