BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - UPDATE (3/6): A settlement conference will be held on March 28 where the case will be resolved, a judge at the U.S. District Courthouse in Fresno said on Tuesday.
Judge Dale A. Drozd heard both sides of the MALDEF suit against the County of Kern, and ultimately decided that a compromise must be reached on March 28 with the help of a magistrate judge. If a compromise between the two sides is not reached, Judge Drozd said he has an order prepared (but he prefers the sides come to a compromise).
The county says they do not plan to appeal the decision.
A court decision could force the Kern County Board of Supervisors to redraw their boundaries to comply with federal law.
A district judge in Fresno ruled Friday that Kern County is in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The ruling came after a lawsuit from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleged that the current district map (adopted in 2011) dilutes the Latino vote and effectively prevents Latino voters from making an impact in Board of Supervisor elections.
Julia Gomez, who was on the trial team for the case on behalf of MALDEF, says an area of focus is the northern part of Kern County, namely the Wasco-Shafter-Delano area. The current Board of Supervisors district map splits that area between two districts; the suit argues that this keeps Latinos from having a majority in either district.
The only Kern County district that currently holds a Latino voting majority is District 5, which is also the only district with a Latina representative in Leticia Perez.
MALDEF will now push for district lines to be redrawn, preferably before the 2018 elections. The county can either accept the ruling or appeal; it's unclear what they will do at this time.
A status meeting will be held with a judge on March 6 to further discuss the issue.