Kern County Loses Redistricting Lawsuit

A U.S. District Court judge has sided with a Latino voting rights group in a landmark ruling that could have major implications for voting in Kern County.

On Friday, Judge Dale A. Drozd ruled that Kern County violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act when it approved its redistricting plan in 2011. The plan split the county’s Latino vote between two districts, diluting minority voting power and depriving the county of a second Latino-majority district, the judge said.

The ruling followed an eleven-day trial in which the plaintiffs presented an array of experts, ranging from demographers and statisticians to civil rights historians. It could have a significant impact on the Republican-dominated Kern County Board of Supervisors and Districts 1 and 4 in particular, which are currently represented by Mick Gleason and David Couch.

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the decision could have reverberations beyond Kern as well.

"Today’s decision should stand as a warning to other counties in California, a number of which also failed to comply with the Voting Rights Act during the last round of redistricting," he said. “The growing Latino community is entitled to representation, and drawing lines to protect incumbents risks costly litigation to secure an eventual remedy to protect voters' rights."

Supervisor Gleason called the ruling an insult to his constituents because of the assumption that all Latinos will vote a certain way. The outside counsel employed by the county has also said it is looking into the options for appeal.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

Read more at Bakersfield Now and KCRA