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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 21st, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 43 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 43

Santa Barbara County Redistricting Commission completes selection process

By Kasey Bubnash

The 11 members of Santa Barbara County’s Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission have officially been chosen, and although the commission isn’t perfectly representative of the population that inhabits this county, it’s more diverse than when the selection process started. 


FIRST FIVE
Laura Katz, William McClintock, Norman Bradley, Cary Gray, and Glenn Morris (left to right) were the first five members of the Santa Barbara County Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission.
FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

At a meeting on Dec. 14, the first five commissioners, who were randomly selected for their positions in October through a lottery system, announced the applicants chosen to fill the commission’s six remaining seats, the conclusion of a months-long and controversial selection process. 

Santa Barbara County residents Karen Twibell, Megan Turley, James Hudley, Lata Murti, Jannet Rios, and Benjamin Olmedo were selected out of hundreds of applicants to serve on the commission, which will be responsible for using data collected during the 2020 U.S. census to adjust the boundaries of the county’s supervisorial districts. 

“Folks, I think we’ve tried to untie a Gordian knot,” Commission Chair Glenn Morris said. “I’m not sure that we’ll have done it to everyone’s satisfaction, but I think we’ve got a team here of highly qualified, well-committed folks that I think we can all look forward to joining these Brady Bunch squares in the near future.” 

The use of a redistricting commission is an attempt to create districts that will better represent the county’s current population independently from elected and county officials, but the Redistricting Commission selection process has been under fire since mid-October, when Registrar of Voters Joseph Holland released his list of the 45 most qualified candidates chosen from about 200 applicants. Community members from across the county immediately complained that the group chosen by Holland consisted predominantly of white men and did not accurately represent Santa Barbara County’s demographics. 

“We have, for example, only 13 percent Latino in this pool, whereas we have 46 percent in our population,” 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said at the Oct. 13 meeting. “We have only 14 percent under the age of 40, when they’re 57 percent of our population. We have it skewed toward males: 65 percent when there’s 50 percent female in our population. So in other words you’ve created a skewed pool that is old, white, and male.”

After the first five commissioners—Laura Katz, William McClintock, Norman Bradley, Cary Gray, and Morris—were randomly chosen from Holland’s pool of 45, they vowed to ensure that those chosen to fill the six remaining seats on the Redistricting Commission would be representative of the county’s residents.

The final 11-member commission now consists of six registered Democrats, one Republican, and four no-party-preference members; five women and six men; six white people, four people of color, and one member who declined to state her ethnicity; and two members under the age of 30 and nine who are over 40. 

Commissioner Gray said that considering the first five random picks—who are all white and mostly men—and the remaining applicants, it would be impossible to create a completely representative commission. 

To accurately parallel the county’s demographics, the first five members would have had to choose five women and one man to fill the remaining six seats, including five Latino members, one Asian, Black, or Native American member; three members under the age of 45, and two over 75. 

“So we have to try to balance with our final six along with our first five commissioners,” Gray said at the Dec. 14 meeting. “But I feel certain that we’ll be able to pick a dream team this morning that will make the citizens of Santa Barbara proud of the difficult task we have successfully completed.”










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