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Lawsuit coming to challenge new SLO County redistricting map 

Just minutes after San Luis Obispo County supervisors officially drew new district lines for the next decade that align with the controversial "Patten map," a newly formed nonprofit announced plans to take it to court.

SLO County Citizens for Good Government—a "bipartisan" organization made up of residents who were active in the 2021 county redistricting process—announced in a Dec. 14 press release that it would file a lawsuit "soon" to challenge the now-finalized district map.

click to enlarge POWER GRAB? San Luis Obispo County 1st District Supervisor John Peschong (right) and 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton voted to dramatically redraw SLO County's district lines on Dec. 14. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • POWER GRAB? San Luis Obispo County 1st District Supervisor John Peschong (right) and 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton voted to dramatically redraw SLO County's district lines on Dec. 14.

"We believe the supervisors' formal adoption Tuesday of the so-called Patten map clearly violates California election law," Linda Seifert, one of the nonprofit's directors, said in the press release.

Seifert, a SLO resident and retired Solano County supervisor, further asserted that the "far-right majority of the board" adopted the Patten map "solely to preserve their grip on power," while "tearing apart long-standing communities of interest and ... disenfranchising tens of thousands of SLO County residents."

The announcement came immediately after the Board of Supervisors made its final decision on redistricting and ended a bitter and contentious series of proceedings.

Supervisors John Peschong (1st District), Lynn Compton (4th District), and Debbie Arnold (5th District) greenlit the new map, while Supervisors Bruce Gibson (2nd District) and Dawn Ortiz-Legg (3rd District) opposed it.

In making the motion on Dec. 14 to adopt the new districts, Peschong said he was confident that they adhere to state election law. The three Republican supervisors have repeatedly said they support the map because it splits the city of SLO into two instead of three districts.

"I believe that we have a fair and equitable and legal map we're going to push forward today," Peschong said.

The new map, first drawn by county resident Richard Patten, makes substantial changes to prior district lines.

According to voter registration data analyses, it gives the Republican Party a wider countywide advantage by funneling more Democrats into two districts and growing Republican majorities in three districts.

In addition to the partisan change, the map moves upwards of 100,000 residents into new districts and election cycles as the lines dramatically shift, which will leave some communities without a supervisor for two years—an impact that Supervsior Ortiz-Legg opposed.

"The Patten map has bludgeoned neighborhoods that have been together for 100 years," Ortiz-Legg said during the meeting. "From 2022 to 2024, Los Osos, Oceano, and Morro Bay will have no voting, no supervisor, no legislative aide to answer calls. Entire communities are left without an elected individual to call upon."

In announcing its intent to sue the county, the SLO County Citizens for Good Government said the new map violated the state's Fair Maps Act on several fronts.

The group claimed the board's "radical rearranging" of districts was not justified by the county's "low" population growth over the past decade. It also said the map breaks up "long-standing" communities of interest, like those along the North Coast; dilutes the voice of Latino voters in South County; and gerrymanders the county to advantage Republicans.

"Even though the county has considerably more Democrats than Republicans, the Patten map deliberately creates three districts with significantly more Republicans than Democrats," said Mike Normoyle, a Nipomo attorney with Citizens for Good Government, in the press release. "This is the very definition of radical gerrymandering."

Ahead of the board's final decision, SLO County was also put on notice by the Latino Caucus of California Counties, a statewide coalition of county supervisors (including Ortiz-Legg). The caucus sent a letter to state Attorney General Rob Bonta asking Bonta to "provide oversight and intervene" on county redistricting decisions that violate state law.

"We believe there will be some counties that, by Dec. 15, will adopt maps that disregard the criteria [of the Fair Maps Act] and may potentially attempt to gerrymander," the Dec. 6 letter read. "We are specifically concerned with maps being considered in Butte, Merced, and SLO counties."

SLO County Counsel Rita Neal told New Times that the county has not yet been served with any litigation regarding redistricting. But "if and/or when that occurs, we plan to defend the board's action," Neal said. Δ

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