Residents across the political spectrum are expressing frustration at Orange County supervisors for ignoring their input on maps that will shape democratic representation for the next decade, as supervisors prepare to pick a final map at a 1 p.m. public meeting today.
Over the past several months, community groups have gathered input and coalesced around two proposed maps – known as proposals 5 and 2 – which they presented to supervisors.
But a majority of supervisors have largely gone their own way and proposed maps that divide communities like Irvine and coastal cities in ways residents say are unacceptable.
Also generating pushback is supervisors’ decision last week to shorten the public’s review period of their final proposed maps from 10 days to just three days, the bare minimum required by state law.
“Everything has disgusted me,” said Marc Ang, a leading supporter of map 2 who heads up the business community events group Asian Industry B2B and formerly served as a leader for the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a prominent Republican fundraising group.
“They’re not being transparent about the process. And it’s really amazing that my counterparts on the left feel the same way. It’s actually a very unifying thing at this point,” added Ang, who was a prominent supporter of map 2.
Jonathan Paik, who has headed up a large coalition of community groups known as the People’s Redistricting Alliance that developed map 5, echoed those concerns.
“Ten years ago we saw the board draw districts that disproportionately disenfranchised communities of color. And we saw this Tuesday a very clear attempt to limit the influence of our growing communities countywide,” Paik said, noting Supervisor Doug Chaffee’s proposed split of Irvine’s Asian community along the 405 freeway.
“Our communities will have to live with these lines for the next 10 years,” added Paik, who leads the nonprofit Orange County Civic Engagement Table, a key member of the redistricting alliance.
County supervisors didn’t return phone calls asking about the criticism.
But Supervisor Lisa Bartlett did provide a written statement saying she appreciated the public’s input, without citing how it shaped her decision-making.
“Public input is an invaluable part of the process and critical to the Board’s deliberations on the final selection of a map at Monday’s special Board meeting,” Bartlett said in her statement.
“I am hopeful we will select a map that minimizes division, creates fair and equitable representation, complies with Federal Voting Rights Act, and makes sense for our county as a whole.”
Last week, Supervisor Katrina Foley said Chairman Andrew Do’s proposed map – which is up for final decision today – specifically targets her politically by moving her city of Costa Mesa out of its current coastal district for the first time in decades.
That would force Foley off the board in late 2022 and she wouldn’t be able to run again until 2024, Foley said last week.
“They’re using a procedural maneuver to remove me,” Foley told Voice of OC last week.
Do didn’t deny that when she challenged him on it at last week’s redistricting hearing.
“Just admit it. Be honest with the public,” Foley said to Do at last week’s supervisors meeting, referring to her claim he’s politically targeting her with his map.
“I admit this process is a little fluid,” Do said in response.
Ang, an independent with mostly conservative leanings, says it’s clear most supervisors are more focused on protecting their power than the community’s best interests when it comes to drawing the lines.
“No one’s really happy. So regardless of where you stand – for your communities, or interest groups, or whatever it is – no one’s happy at the end of the day,” he said.
“It really just feels like one big incumbent protection program.”
Paik, of the People’s Redistricting Alliance, said the redistricting power should be taken out of the supervisors’ hands next time and instead put in the hands of an independent citizens’ commission, like the process of drawing new maps for state legislative and Congressional districts.
“The board should not be allowed to draw their own districts again. Because I think what we’ve seen again is the power of the board on the dais to be able to disenfranchise communities,” Paik said.
The proposed maps being considered by supervisors are prompting pushback from the ACLU of Southern California, which says they appear to be drawn to benefit Republicans.
“These maps unnecessarily break up cohesive communities of interest in Costa Mesa and Irvine, for the apparent purpose of ensuring Republican control of the Board,” said Julia Gomez, a staff attorney with the ACLU, in a written statement.
“We continue to be concerned with the fact that the final maps divide cohesive communities of interest in Irvine and Costa Mesa, and the apparent motive for this looks to be to split up concentrations of Democratic voters in those areas to make it impossible for them to elect candidates of choice,” she continued.
“For example, Irvine is divided in all iterations of the maps. In [map] 4C-1, Costa Mesa, which has some heavily blue areas, was placed in District 1 to make it impossible for those voters to have a chance to elect a preferred candidate.”
During last week’s discussion, Do said the mapmaking process is inherently political for supervisors, but that his map – known as 4C-1 – stays within the limits of the law.
“When we draw boundaries for the supervisors, it is a political process,” Do said. “We all have our political concerns. But it’s important that we stay within the boundaries of the law. And I believe that 4C-1 does exactly that.”
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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