KERN COUNTY, Calif. — In light of the U.S. Census, California's districts will soon be redrawn, opening the possibility of people seeing some important changes on the ballot next year.
When the maps are redrawn, it means that specific neighborhoods may fall into different districts than they are currently in. It’s a complex process that experts say could shift the balance of reliably red or blue districts.
“You can see that the Democrats are making inroads in the eastern part of the county, in the southern part of the county,” said Jeremy Adams, political science teacher, Bakersfield High School.
Kern County is known for having a reliable Republican voter base. But a look at the latest voter registration data is painting a different picture.
“In Kern County, Republicans only account for 37% of registered voters, and Democrats are only a few points behind at 34%,” said Adams.
Bakersfield High School Political Science Teacher Jeremy Adams explains that Kern County isn’t as reliably red as it once was. This means as the state looks to redistrict, liberal or undecided voters could get roped into a reliably Republican district like house minority leader Kevin McCarthy's 23rd District.
“You know, it’s really too early to tell,” said Adams.
California has set a December 15 deadline to decide how the state will be redistricted, although state officials have said that COVID-related delays may occur. According to the state, redistricting is determined by a commission of 14 members, made up of five Republicans, five Democrats, and 4 not affiliated with either of those two parties.
“You want districts drawn in a way where voters really have a choice,” said Adams.
Ultimately, Adams says the commission will have done its job if all California districts are drawn in a way that does not favor Republicans or Democrats. Every candidate in a given district should have a fighting chance.
“Our congressman is going to be very busy in 2022, because this district is absolutely not the safe seat it once was, and that is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your politics.”
Not only are registered Democrats becoming more prevalent in Kern County but over one in five identify as having no party preference. We reached out to representative McCarthy's campaign for comment but haven’t heard back.