By Breeana Greenberg
The Orange County Board of Supervisors’ debate over a series of proposed maps to redraw district lines continued Tuesday, Nov. 16, as they narrowed down the selection to a handful of options that will be further explored when the officials meet again next week.
Using data from the 2020 Census, the board is required to select a new map from a handful of choices—some of which propose to put the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano in a new District 5.
In an effort to avoid facing criticism about a lack of transparency on the redistricting process, the supervisors, who are voted by residents of their respective districts, decided to hold a special meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 22 to potentially adopt one of the maps, rather than waiting until after Thanksgiving.
Maps up for adoption must be published seven days before the board can vote to adopt one, unless the adoption happens after Nov. 17. Since the board hopes to adopt the new map next Monday, the maps only need to be published three days before approval.
The public will have those three days to review the maps after they are posted on Friday afternoon, Nov. 19.
One of the draft maps, titled Map 4C1, has San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach placed in an all new District 5, along with parts of Huntington Beach, Irvine, Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Hills.
Chairman Andrew Do, who represents District 1, proposed changes to Map 4C1 to minimize cities being split into multiple districts.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, the current District 5 representative, requested that the board fix the city splits of Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills, bringing both cities entirely into District 5. She also requested that Rancho Mission Viejo and Ladera Ranch be brought into District 5, and that a portion of Irvine, east of the 5 Freeway, be removed and placed into District 3.
District 2 Supervisor Katrina Foley requested that Costa Mesa and Newport Beach be in the same district. Kim Barlow, the City of Costa Mesa’s attorney and representative, said her city’s mayor and council submitted letters asking that the town not be split into separate districts. Barlow also commented that Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach should remain together in the same district.
“They share school districts. They have many long standing contractual and border relationships with Newport Beach and Huntington Beach,” said Barlow, speaking on the cities’ common interests. “To be divided into different districts would be a disservice not only to Costa Mesa but to Newport Beach and to Huntington Beach as well.”
Members from several organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), UCLA Voting Rights Project, OC Environmental Justice, Arab American Civic Council, South Asian network, Viet-rise, Pacific Islander Health Partnership, Council of Islamic Relations and Latino Health Access, to name a few, spoke in support of either Maps 2 or 5.
Supporters of Map 5 noted that it created a Latino majority district while supporters of Map 2 noted that it created an Asian-American plurality district.
The UCLA Voting Rights Project called for a redistricting map that creates districts with minority influence.
“During the 2011 redistricting process, Orange County divided places like Anaheim and Santa Ana, diluting the political power of those city’s Latino population for more than a decade,” the UCLA Voting Rights Project wrote in a summary of the report on the redistricting. “Failure to correct these historical wrongs could put Orange County at risk of being in violation of the federal and state voting rights guidelines.”
Responding to the group’s report, Do commented that given the size and population of Anaheim, it would be impossible to keep Anaheim whole and create all of the districts that would satisfy legal requirements.
“To cite Anaheim as an example of disenfranchisement, to me, is just dishonesty,” Do said. “And then contrary to what’s claimed by the UCLA Voting Rights Project, Santa Ana was not divided in 2011.”
The ACLU sent a letter to the board raising concerns of partisanship in some of the proposed maps. Julia Gomez, staff attorney for the ACLU, noted that the organization believes all revisions of Maps 2, 4, and 5A-1 and 5A-B create partisan gerrymandering.
“The last point I want to make is that the Supreme Court of the United States has made clear that state courts are fairly well suited to adjudicate these types of cases,” Gomez said. “There are not illusory rights, these are rights that can be enforced in court and we urge you to do what’s right and not make the same mistake as in 2011.”
City councilmembers from Laguna Niguel and Laguna Hills called on the board to adopt a couple of variations of Map 2—Maps 2A or 2A1—saying that most other maps split up South County cities.
“Several of these proposed maps break up South Orange County into two or more districts,” Laguna Niguel Councilmember Fred Minagar said. “There are 11 cities in South Orange County: Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. All of these 11 cities that I mentioned, they have a lot of commonalities that should preclude them from being split into separate supervisorial districts.”
Laguna Hills Councilmember Donald Caskey also spoke against the maps which split South County into multiple districts.
“The demographics of South Orange County cities are relatively homogeneous throughout the region, and the communities will be best served by remaining in the same supervisorial district,” Caskey said. “I urge you have to consider the similarities of all these 11 cities that I mentioned and continue to have them remain together in a cluster, in a collective district.”
Supervisor Donald Wagner, representative of District 3, noted that population sizes in South County make it difficult to create a district complicit with the Voting Rights Act that keeps all South Orange County cities together.
“To be honest, I did not resonate with the argument of some of my good friends from South County about how we need to keep South County together in one supervisorial district,” Wagner said. “The South County cities get two supervisors attuned to their interests, and responsive to them instead of just one if we lump them all together.”
Former Mayor of Dana Point Diane Harkey spoke in favor of Map 2A1 because it kept South County cities together.
“I appreciate the work you’ve gone through, this is a really tough decision. It will be your legacy decision for the County of Orange, make no bones about it,” said Harkey, a former state assemblymember. “There’s nothing else you will do that will affect and impact our county more.”
Bartlett shared her appreciation for public speakers, adding that public input is an important part of the redistricting process.
“I just want to thank everyone for this process,” Bartlett said. “You know, with COVID, the census was late, and then now the redistricting process has come late and we’re kind of rushing to get everything finished. It’s just been a great effort by county staff.”
“I also appreciate all the public speakers that come to our meetings time and time again, to reiterate their points of view, because the public comments are very important,” she continued. “I’ve been taking copious notes, as my other colleagues have as well. And the public input is very important in this process. So, I just want to thank everyone for their participation.”
The county has until Dec. 15 to approve a map.
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org