Every 10 years based on the new U.S. Census data all district boundaries in California must be redrawn, this in order to reflect the population changes and ensure that each elected official represents about the same number of constituents.
The different counties in California use different systems to perform the redrawing or redistricting process, some appoint judges, others have the county supervisors make the changes and few others appoint citizen commissions.
In 2018, Santa Barbara County voters approved Measure G, which created an 11-member independent redistricting commission, thus becoming one of the few counties including Los Angeles and San Diego to have a civilian redistricting commission. The message to the general population was that having a committee of its peers representing the existing racial and ethnic makeup of the districts would add credibility to the process. The purpose of this commission being to create a transparent process where every member of the community regardless of race or ethnicity can be heard and have an input into the realignment. The members of the commission must live in the county and have previously voted in Santa Barbra County elections. In addition, members must preferably represent the demographics of the county.
Santa Barbara County is presently undergoing a redistricting process. At the beginning of the redistricting process, maintaining the racial makeup of the commission seemed to be a main concern. As the process evolved, race and ethnicity suddenly stopped being important. When some of the members resigned, the possible replacements seemed to be selected based only on the political preferences and agendas of the remaining commissioners.
Even though Santa Barbara County is over 45 percent Hispanic and Latino, the Redistricting Commission made up of 11 members now has only one sitting member of Hispanic heritage. Which means that the Hispanic community is underrepresented by a factor of 5. The County Redistricting Commission is once again placing partisan preferences ahead of accurate representation of our county’s population.
Throughout this process, many commissioners have resigned and have subsequently been replaced. Yet, each time the commission deliberates to select replacements, they seem to consider party preference over accurate representation of Santa Barbara County’s diverse population. At the present time the commission has an opportunity, after the resignation of Janet Rios, to add another member of a Hispanic background. Though this would still not provide perfect representation for the Latino community, it may still be one step in the right direction to provide minority groups with a louder voice.