KERN COUNTY, Calif. — The U.S. Census Bureau says it counts the nation's population every ten years in order to help communities determine where to build everything from schools and supermarkets, to homes and hospitals. It also helps governments on the local level determine how to redraw districts to best serve local populations.
That's something that's on the mind of our community officials right now, as they begin to think about how to redistrict Kern County in light of the 2020 census.
At face value redistricting sounds simple. It’s basically the act of the county deciding the boundaries of Kern’s five districts. But as a county official told 23ABC today, there’s a deeper science to it.
“It’s important so that each district has the same amount of representation so that all voices are heard equally,” said Margo Raison, Kern County Counsel.
If you live in Kern County, you live in one of its five districts. And each district has a corresponding supervisor, which each district’s residents vote for. The county determines the boundaries of these districts by examining a range of factors.
First and foremost, each district needs to have about the same population. This is important so that each supervisor represents the voice of an equal amount of people. But that’s not all that’s taken into consideration.
“We also are interested in making sure that geographical communities are identified,” Raison said.
These geographical communities, according to the county, can be areas with a concentration of a certain race or culture. In 2018, a federal court ruled that a previous Kern County redistricting plan violated the voting rights of Latinos. A judge determining the plan unlawfully denied Latinos the right to elect the supervisor of their choice.
Issues like this often arise when one such community is split into different districts, making its voice a smaller piece of the pie in the district they end up in.
“We want to hear about that and make sure that we do keep communities of interest together,” Raison said.
In response to those concerns, the county is holding a workshop on Wednesday, April 21, aimed at informing the public as to how census data is used to draw district lines. Four other public hearing sessions will be scheduled as well, to give the public a chance to provide input.
“We want to receive as much feedback as possible to learn the interest, the needs, and what the citizens of Kern County think is important,” Raison said.
The county has launched this website dedicated to the redistricting process.
The website has more information about why redistricting is important in Kern County, as well as how to join the workshop that is happening on Wednesday.
(Point your cell phone camera at the QR code above to access the website)
There will eventually be more information posted about future public hearing dates.