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League of Women Voters files motion to join SLO County redistricting lawsuit 

The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County wants to join the legal fight against SLO County's controversial redistricting map.

click to enlarge LEGAL MAP? The League is Women Voters of SLO County is joining a citizen effort to overturn SLO County’s new redistricting map in court. - IMAGE COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • LEGAL MAP? The League is Women Voters of SLO County is joining a citizen effort to overturn SLO County’s new redistricting map in court.

In a May 10 press release, the League announced that it had filed a motion in SLO County Superior Court to join as a party in the pending lawsuit accusing county supervisors of gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement.

"We consider the Patten Map an assault on voting rights," League chapter President Cindy Marie Absey said in the release.

Absey told New Times that the League's court intervention is unprecedented locally, but that the national nonprofit organization has a "long and illustrious history" of taking legal action on redistricting decisions when deemed necessary across the U.S.

"Our mission is really about defending voting rights," Absey said. "We believe that the Patten map is illegal, that it violates the California Constitution. We just felt it was very important."

The League said SLO County's new map moves about 98,000 voters across the county into new supervisorial districts, deferring voting rights for half of those residents to 2024 and accelerating rights for the other half to 2022. The deferred voters will not have a county supervisor representing them for two years.

"It's really a huge number [of voters affected]," Absey said. "And this is because there was a less than 10,000 population change? It really flies in the face of common sense."

SLO County Citizens for Good Government—a local citizen coalition that formed during redistricting—filed the initial lawsuit against SLO County in January to challenge its adopted map.

The local League chapter had voiced its opposition to the map during county redistricting hearings last year. It'd tried to join the lawsuit previously, before a February preliminary hearing, but the judge denied the motion at the time because the nonprofit did not have legal representation, Absey said.

Since then, the League has retained Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a Los Angeles law firm, to argue its case. A hearing on the new motion to join the suit is scheduled for June 2.

In a separate press release, Citizens for Good Government board members Jim Gardiner, Patricia Gomez, Linda Seifert, and Rick TerBorch expressed their appreciation for the League's support.

"Ensuring fair and free elections is a fundamental tenet of what the League of Women Voters stands for. We are grateful to the SLO County League for their leadership and participation," the May 10 release read. "If the League's motion is granted, the court will be able to consider the League's unique perspective and experience, which will enhance our chances of having the Patten Map invalidated."

—Peter Johnson

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