SLO County supervisors picked a controversial redistricting map. What happens next?

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The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will take the next step toward adopting a controversial redistricting map some residents say is gerrymandered.

So what’s ahead for those who oppose the plan? Will the map’s adoption yield a lawsuit against the county? What about a petition to put the issue on the ballot?

Here’s what you need to know about what comes next in the local redistricting process.

View a zoom-able version of Richard Patten’s map here. Click “data layers” and “municipalities” to view city boundaries.

What’s next in the redistricting process? When are the meetings?

The county Board of Supervisors on Nov. 30 selected a redistricting map drawn by Arroyo Grande resident Richard Patten and backed by the local Republican Party.

Board members picked Patten’s map — which makes significant changes to the county’s five supervisor districts — over one created by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, which made more minor changes to the existing framework.

One of two finalists, the map created by Richard Patten would dramatically redraw San Luis Obispo County’s supervisor districts by splitting the current North Coast into three districts with Los Osos in one, Morro Bay in another, and Cayucos, Cambria and the rest of the region in a district with Atascadero. It would divide the city of SLO between two supervisors instead of three, but it would not have SLO represented wholly by one person, as has been the refrain of supporters of the plan. It would also separate Oceano from Nipomo in a district that runs from the southern end of Pismo Beach to the edge of Morro Bay State Park and includes the Laguna Lake and airport areas of SLO. Santa Margarita would be grouped with Templeton and Paso Robles, rather than neighboring Atascadero.
One of two finalists, the map created by Richard Patten would dramatically redraw San Luis Obispo County’s supervisor districts by splitting the current North Coast into three districts with Los Osos in one, Morro Bay in another, and Cayucos, Cambria and the rest of the region in a district with Atascadero. It would divide the city of SLO between two supervisors instead of three, but it would not have SLO represented wholly by one person, as has been the refrain of supporters of the plan. It would also separate Oceano from Nipomo in a district that runs from the southern end of Pismo Beach to the edge of Morro Bay State Park and includes the Laguna Lake and airport areas of SLO. Santa Margarita would be grouped with Templeton and Paso Robles, rather than neighboring Atascadero.

But the board is not quite finished with the redistricting process yet.

In December, the board will take the next steps to codify the map it selected. Supervisors on Tuesday at 9 a.m. will introduce the ordinance implementing the map during their regular meeting.

On Dec. 14, the board will hold a hearing at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the map and officially adopt it.

Is anyone filing a lawsuit to oppose Patten’s map?

At the Nov. 30 meeting, Supervisor John Peschong said he suspected residents would file lawsuits against the county contesting the supervisors’ redistricting selection, regardless of which map they picked.

However, no organization has announced they’re pursuing a lawsuit — at least, not yet.

Citizens for Preserving District #4 — a South County organization working to keep Oceano in District 4, among other goals — has been active in its opposition to Patten’s map.

However, the group would likely not consider legal action until after supervisors officially adopt the map on Dec. 14, said Mike Normoyle, a Nipomo lawyer involved in the organization.

People hold signs reading “Stop the power grab: Do the right thing” at the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as it considers the two finalist redistricting maps.
People hold signs reading “Stop the power grab: Do the right thing” at the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, as it considers the two finalist redistricting maps.

What about a petition process? What would that look like?

A petition is another option for residents who oppose Patten’s map and don’t want to see the county enact it.

County Counsel Rita Neal told The Tribune residents could file a petition for referendum, which would prompt the Board of Supervisors to either repeal the ordinance adopting the map or submit a referendum to voters.

However, the petition would need to be filed before the ordinance goes into effect a month after its adoption. This means the last possible day to file would be Jan. 13, if supervisors adopt the map ordinance on Dec. 14.

The petition would need to be signed by “10% of the entire vote count within the county for all candidates for governor at the last gubernatorial election,” Neal said in an email.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold comments while Dawn Ortiz-Legg listens during the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors redistricting meeting on Nov. 30, 2021. The board voted 3-2 to throw out the current map in favor of a radically redrawn version created by Arroyo Grande resident Richard Patten.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold comments while Dawn Ortiz-Legg listens during the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors redistricting meeting on Nov. 30, 2021. The board voted 3-2 to throw out the current map in favor of a radically redrawn version created by Arroyo Grande resident Richard Patten.

The last gubernatorial election — not including the 2021 recall — took place in November 2018, when Gov. Gavin Newsom ran against John Cox.

There were 126,254 total votes cast for governor countywide, meaning the petition would need approximately 12,625 signatures, according to the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office final election results.

When the petition is submitted, “the ordinance is suspended and the board is required to reconsider the ordinance,” Neal said. The elections official would then have 30 days to review the petition signatures.

If residents are able to prompt a referendum, it would take place in June, Neal said.

How can I get involved?

To learn more about the redistricting process, visit the county’s webpage at bit.ly/3o1tmAo.

The county is accepting public comment on redistricting until 5 p.m. on Dec. 13. To submit a comment, send an email to redistricting@co.slo.ca.us.

To stream the Board of Supervisors meetings on Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. and Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m., visit the meetings, agendas and minutes webpage at bit.ly/3peLFBm. A link to listen to live audio or view live video will appear when the meeting begins.

To watch the meeting live on TV, tune into cable channel 21.

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