County board approves formation of committee to advise on redistricting

Diane Sieker photo

Riverside County supervisors formally established a committee to analyze data and make recommendations on the redrawing of county supervisorial districts following the 2020 census during its Tuesday, Feb. 25, meeting.

At the board of supervisors’ direction, the executive office returned with a model for the committee’s makeup that essentially mirrors what was in place following the 2010 census. The vote was 5-0 in favor of forming the panel.

The previous census-based Redistricting Steering Committee was comprised of one representative from each supervisor’s office, the county assessor and an assistant county executive officer.

The one that will be set up this time will include a minor modification the addition of the county’s chief information officer, whose job will include utilizing the Department of Information Technology’s Geographic Information Systems software to re-map supervisorial district boundaries to exact dimensions.

“Additional support will come from the county team in an ex officiostatus, including the public information officer, county counsel’s office and the Transportation and Land Management Agency, to name a few,” according to a statement posted to the board’s policy agenda.

Supervisors will be guided by provisions laid out in Assembly Bill 849, the “Fair Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivisions Act.” That law imposes procedural restrictions on governing bodies, specifically mandating that they “respect the geographic integrity of local neighborhoods and communities of interest.”

However, most county boards enjoy wide discretion in redefining district lines. All that is required is a majority vote to change them, based on census data. The process must be transparent, and public comment is encouraged under state law.

“Redistricting efforts after the 2020 census will have a direct impact on the residents and businesses of Riverside County, as the results determine representation at the federal, state and local levels, and to maintain a proportionate number of voters between supervisorial districts,” according to the county executive office.

The executive office’s recommendation is that the board meet no earlier than Aug.21, 2021, for the purpose of discussing redistricting, which will allow sufficient time for data to be analyzed and put before the supervisors for consideration.

The issue of redrawing supervisorial district boundaries because of population shifts resulted in multiple hearings after the 2010 census, which showed the number of residents countywide increasing by 42% 644,000 people over the previous decade.

The hearings culminated in testy debates, mostly between former supervisors John Tavaglione, representing District 2, and Bob Buster,representing District 1. The pair argued over division of segments of the city of Riverside, concentrated in the Casa Blanca, Eastside and University neighborhoods.

The goal was to abide by apportionment targets set for each district.Two former supervisors on the board, Marion Ashley and Jeff Stone, surrendered whole cities as part of the redistricting. To break an impasse, Tavaglione ultimately relented to Buster’s proposal to envelop several neighborhoods that had historically belonged to the 1st District.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, questionnaires related to the 2020 count will begin going out in April. Census takers will also start making personal visits to hard-to-reach locations and canvassing colleges and universities.

Homes that received questionnaires but were unresponsive will be visited beginning sometime in May, according to the government.

A report on the decennial census will be delivered to the president and Congress in December.