U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd signed off on the final map that shifts Kern County’s five districts. This comes as part of a settlement after the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) brought a lawsuit against Kern County alleging that 2011 redistricting violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
According to MALDEF, the boundary between District 1 and District 4 unlawfully fractured a large cohesive Latino community, submerging their votes in a larger white electorate in both districts, thereby diluting Latino voters’ ability to participate effectively in the political process.
Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason, who provided testimony defending the 2011 map during the trial in February, issued a statement Thursday on the final decision. Among the priorities Gleason advocated for in the lawsuit was the need for Eastern Kern County to remain in two districts instead of being reduced to one.
“Judge Drozd signed the final approval of the changes in Kern County redistricting. A sad day in Kern County's rich history. 120,000 Kern County residents woke up this morning with a different Supervisor than the one they voted for in the last election. There were few winners coming from this decision, mostly losers, and the judge and the proponents of this action are singularly responsible for creating a more divisive community. As a result of this poor decision we now have 2 specially designed Latino districts and 3 specially designed non-Latino districts. Instead of creating a blended, more integrated community focused on improving the quality of life for all our constituents, the judge has created more politically motivated, single-minded, and ethnically biased factions. I'm afraid Dr. Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave.
“If there is a shred of ‘good news’ in this decision its that eastern Kern County has retained 2 votes on the Board of Supervisors. It was something Supervisor Scrivner and I had to fight desperately hard to retain.
“But even that has implications that Ridgecrest needs to come to understand. No longer is Ridgecrest the political behemoth in District 1. The changes in District 1; losing the cities of Delano, Shafter, and McFarland, and the gaining of Southwest Bakersfield has essentially traded one LOW propensity voting block for a HIGH propensity voting block. It will become increasingly more difficult for aspiring candidates to win an election for District 1 Supervisor coming from Ridgecrest and the Kern River Valley. The math is simply against us. We will need strong candidates with unifying and winning strategies.
“Thank you for your patience and understanding of this critically important issue. The Indian Wells Valley remains a leader in the political vitality of Kern County and we are blessed with a bright and wonderful future.”