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Judge rules new maps can still be used in SLO County elections despite legal challenge

The SLO County Board of Supervisors adopted new district lines Tuesday.
SLO County
The SLO County Board of Supervisors adopted new district lines in December.

A San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge ruled last night that San Luis Obispo County officials can use the redistricting map they adopted in December for this year's elections, despite a legal challenge to the map from a nonprofit.

The group, SLO County Citizens for Good Government, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors for adopting the "Patten map" which they say favors conservative voters in the county.

The map was submitted to the board by Arroyo Grande resident Richard Patten, and is supported by the local Republican Party.

SLO County Citizens for Good Government alleges that the map, adopted 3-2 by the board, violates the state's Fair Maps Act by breaking up communities of interest and creating an advantage for conservative voters in three out of the five districts.

Superior Court Judge Rita Federman sided with the county in last night's preliminary injunction hearing, meaning the county should be able to use the new map for the upcoming June primary.

However, the judge also acknowledged that SLO County Citizens for Good Government could still have other successes in its legal challenge further down the line.

Federman wrote that the group “demonstrated a high probability of success on their claim that the board did not proceed in the manner required by law when it failed to consider evidence that the adopted map favored or discriminated against a political party.”

The court set a case management conference for March 14 where it's expected to set the case for trial to determine if the map will stand for future elections, according to the county.

You can read the judge's ruling here.

The new map splits the North Coast area into three pieces, putting Los Osos in one district and Morro Bay in another.

Meanwhile Cayucos, Cambria and the rest of the North Coast region are now in a district with the city of Atascadero.

The map drawn by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce made more minor changes to the existing districts.
SLO County
The map drawn by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce made more minor changes to the existing districts.

The City of San Luis Obispo remains divided between multiple districts in the Patten map, just as it is currently.

During a December board meeting, Supervisor Bruce Gibson objected to the drastic changes that the Patten map would bring to SLO County, instead arguing that the U.S. Census results do not warrant major adjustments in district lines.

"My position on where we should go with redistricting has been articulated pretty clearly in a couple of previous hearings — and that again our consultant has reinforced today for at least the third time — that there is no need to make major changes to the district boundaries," Gibson said.

But Supervisor Debbie Arnold argued that the Patten map is more considerate of future population growth until the next census and said she believes it does not cause damage to communities of interest.

"I want to say, I am very supportive of the Patten map. It was interesting from the first time I saw it in that it takes into account each city, it tries to keep them whole and in most of the communities [there is] minimal damage," Arnold said.

Updated: February 10, 2022 at 2:42 PM PST
This article has been updated to reflect the judge's statement on the possible future success of the legal challenge, the March 14 date for the case management conference, and a link to the ruling.
Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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