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SLO County League of Women Voters joins redistricting lawsuit, marks 60th anniversary month

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County of San Luis Obispo
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A map of the newly-drawn SLO County districts.

This month marks the League of Women Voters 60th anniversary of providing voter services and information for San Luis Obispo County. It’s a nonpartisan, grassroots organization that doesn’t usually take legal action — but now, the League has joined a lawsuit against SLO County over the outcome of the last redistricting cycle. 

“Our legacy of activism and informing and educating voters is really really what we're about,” said the President of SLO County’s League of Women Voters, Cindy Marie Absey.

Absey said that throughout the years, the League has worked with diverse organizations like the NAACP, The Diversity Coalition, Latino Outreach and Chambers of Commerce to promote their voter services and advocacy efforts across the county.

Some of the services include candidate forums on local elections, Adopt-A-Poll where members work the polls, and volunteering for Voters Edge, an online resource for voters to get information on their local candidates and propositions.

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

“It can be daunting to encounter a multi-page ballot so that's part of the reason we provide this service as a public service,” said Absey.

After 60 years of advocacy and education, the league is now taking its most direct step yet in joining litigation with the SLO Citizens for Good Government. The lawsuit challenges the county’s 2021 redistricting map, calling it an “assault on voting rights” and a case of gerrymandering.

Absey says the League can’t comment directly on pending litigation, but she did sat that this was one issue the organization felt compelled to participate in because it affects voting rights in the county.

“We study issues before we take positions on them. We don't always take positions on every issue, but ones that we feel are especially essential to voting rights and citizens safety,” said Absey.

The new map for SLO County removed Oceano from District 1, split the City of SLO into two districts instead of three, and separated the Los Osos, Morro Bay, and Cayucos and Cambria area into three separate districts. Critics say the map violates the California Fair Maps Act by drawing districts that favor conservatives voting in the Board of Supervisors races.

The board majority that decided on the new maps disagrees, saying the old map needed to be changed to reflect population changes. However, the county's map-making consultant, Redistricting Partners, told the board that SLO County's population changes were not large enough to meet the legal threshold for majorly re-shaping districts.

The lawsuit was originally filed in January 2022 and will continue to a case management conference in late July. The League joined the lawsuit on July 17, saying they want to help intervene on the behalf of disenfranchised voters in SLO County.

The League's next public event is a webinar on SLO County's five-year plan around housing and homelessness.

Corrected: July 3, 2022 at 9:37 PM PDT
This article has been updated to include a sentence about the county's map-making consultant, Redistricting Partners, countering some supervisors' claims that the districts needed to be redrawn to accommodate major population changes in SLO County.
Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.