Saturday, February 23, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 3rd, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 18

Ballot initiative aims to redraw county supervisorial districts

By Spencer Cole

A new group claiming to represent the "radical center" in Santa Barbara County aims to change how the municipality creates district boundaries for its Board of Supervisors. The self-described "social welfare organization," Reason in Government, had its ballot initiative presented to the supervisors on July 3 with 16,000-plus signatures, more than enough to place the document on the November ballot. 

If voters approve the initiative, an independent redistricting commission would then be established and responsible for setting all supervisorial district boundaries every 10 years following the decennial federal census. The commission would consider population, cohesiveness, and topography like watersheds and other natural or artificial barriers, among other criteria. 

The independent body would be comprised of five members, plus five alternates, and not include more than two members who are registered to vote with the same political party. Additionally, the commission would require a member residing in each of the five supervisorial districts and to also have an alternate from each that would be of the same political affiliation as said member. 

The proposal contains procedures for the commission to follow before adopting new boundaries, including the requirement to hold at least five public hearings, with one in each of the existing supervisorial districts, before the new proposed boundaries are adopted. 

If passed, the ballot initiative would take effect immediately. However, the independent redistricting commission would not exercise its functions until the conclusion of the 2020 census. 

"We were gratified when more than 16,000 of our fellow county residents agreed that this nonpartisan political reform should be put on the November ballot," the group's founder Robert Collector stated following the initiative going public.

According to Collector, the initiative is based on Proposition 11 and Senate Bill 1108 and draws "specific and relevant language from each to create a truly independent commission that would serve the interests of all voters across the country."

The reaction to the group's objective and the initiative's intentions was laced with mixed criticism countywide. The Santa Barbara Independent claimed in a column the signature-gathering effort was "spearheaded" by Bob Nelson, 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam's chief of staff.

"Adam may be a whole lot of things, but a centrist has never been among them," the column's author, Nick Welsh, wrote. He noted that Reason in Government had raised more than $100,000 to attain the signatures and of "the $42,000 itemized in the latest campaign filing statement, every cent of it came from North County ag, business, and Republican interests." 

According to the Independent, the initiative is an effort to split UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista into separate districts to help give conservatives a better chance at winning the supervisors' 3rd District. The seat has historically been the deciding swing vote between the county's conservative north and liberal south. 

The initiative is expected to cost between $75,000 and $100,000 to place on the ballot. 

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