Planners redrawing voting lines for the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors' districts visited Turlock Monday night in search of input on how to divide up the county equally while keeping communities of interest intact.
“Every 10 years we take the census nationally, so our population changes,” explained Stanislaus County Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs and redistricting project manager David Jones. “Right now, we need to take a look at our county supervisor districts and try to get them balanced to equal populations.”
As Stanislaus County's total population sits just above 514,000, each of the five local supervisorial districts must contain about 103,000 residents, plus or minus 2 percent. While the five districts were equal in population 10 years ago, their populations now run the gamut from about 92,000 residents to roughly 114,000 residents due to growth and development.
But planners must take more into account than raw population data in deciding how supervisorial districts shrink and grow. Federal law and state elections code strictly govern the other criteria which must be taken into account: topography, geography, cohesiveness, continuity, integrity, compactness of territory and community of interests.
Most of the items are fairly easy to understand, and are intended to prevent gerrymandered districts.
Communities of interest, though, refer to groups of people with a common bond or interest who desire to be kept intact for voting purposes. For example, school districts, redevelopment districts, historic preservation areas or groups of citizens involved with a cultural center may desire to vote together, rather than have votes split across districts.
The myriad local communities of interest can have such diverse interests that it's hard to come up with a comprehensive list of groups.
“We can't pretend to know where every community of interest is in the county,” Jones said. “We need to know that info to be able to start drawing district lines.”
Hence, the series of meetings currently taking place around the county to solicit public feedback on the redistricting effort.
Those forums, while they begin with a brief overview of the redistricting process, aren't intended to be about government telling the people how districts will be drawn, according to Stanislaus County CEO Rick Robinson.
“The forums are designed to allow committees to hear from people, not the other way around,” Robinson said.
At Monday's Turlock meeting, which drew about 15 individuals not affiliated with the redistricting effort and about 40 overall, public comment was limited. Residents did ask that planners take into account school district and irrigation district boundaries.
Planners said they would consider such districts as Turlock's supervisorial district – District 2 – shrinks to shed about 10,000 residents during the redistricting process. Those residents will probably come from dropping the section of Ceres currently represented in District 2, leaving Turlock whole.
“Turlock is probably pretty straightforward,” Robinson said. “It's a perfect size community to fit neatly into a district.”
Though it appears District 2 will continue to contain Turlock, Hughson and Hickman, no maps have been drawn – not even preliminarily. Those maps hinge on future public meetings.
The redistricting effort will hold further public meetings today at Patterson City Hall; on June 28, at the Modesto Senior Center; on June 29, at the King Kennedy Center; and on June 30 at Salida Fire Station #1. Each meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider redistricting proposals at its regularly scheduled, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 board meeting, in the board chambers at 1010 10th St., Modesto. The board is then expected to adopt new districts at their 9 a.m. Aug. 23 meeting.
To comment on the redistricting effort, write to County of Stanislaus, Attn: Redistricting 2011, 1010 Tenth St., Suite 6800, Modesto, CA 95354, fax 544-6226, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit www.stancounty.com/redistricting.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.