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Redistricting in SLO County: how it works, how it affects you and how to participate

San Luis Obispo County
A map of San Luis Obispo County's 2010 district lines.

As part of KCBX's three-part series on redistricting on the Central Coast, we’re looking at how the process works in San Luis Obispo County.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing district boundaries. It affects who represents us in government, where we go to school and more. States, counties and other entities like school districts go through this process based on census data — demographic information that comes from the census, which happens every 10 years.

In San Luis Obispo County, district lines are mostly drawn by county staff and then ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“Those lines are drawn, and those are the districts for the next 10 years. So it's important for people to pay attention and be as involved as they'd like to be,” said Julie Rodewald, the voter service director for San Luis Obispo County’s League of Women Voters and a former clerk-recorder for the county.

The county is getting the census data about five months late, and the whole process – including extensive public input hearings — has to be done by the end of this year.

Kristin Erikkson is an analyst for SLO County’s Administrative Office.

“We should've had data in April, now that we're going to be getting it at the end of September, that puts us under an extraordinary time crunch,” Eriksson said.

Eriksson said because COVID-19 delayed the 2020 census data, the county’s going to have to fit a lot of public hearings in just a few months.

“I think that's going to be very difficult for the staff who are tasked with redrawing the maps, and trying to incorporate all the public input we're going to be gathering. It's going to be challenging for our board who are not going to have a ton of time to make decisions and provide their input on the maps that we do draw,” Eriksson said. "We are basically going to have to hold, I think, four hearings in between the end of October and the end of November."

Julie Rodewald said, besides the congressional and supervisorial districts, there are more than a dozen entities— including cities, school districts, and special districts — that are going through redistricting in SLO County.

“So those lines need to be in place by, like, very early December because that's when the signature period starts for candidates to start collecting signatures to waive their filing fees. And that applies for Assembly, Senate, State Board of Equalization, Congress as well. So there's a really really tight timeline, and I think it's going to be really interesting to see what happens,” Rodewald said.

Neal Fornaciari is a commissioner with the California Independent Redistricting Commission (CIRC), which draws the congressional lines for the state. That in turn determines who gets elected to the House of Representatives and where the district boundaries lie.

Fornaciari said the commission has had to do everything virtually until now, which has made his and other commissioners’ jobs more difficult.

“So now with the lifting of the COVID restrictions, we're going to be able to get together. And the opportunity to go and see California, hold public meetings in person, and get to hear from Californians in person, which we're really looking forward to,” Fornaciari said.

Fornaciari said the CIRC is holding public input meetings on redistricting and encourages all Californians to participate.

“I encourage all the people of California to sign up for a slot - you don't have to sign up for a slot, you can get an appointment or you can call in and provide your input,” Fornaciari said.

The CIRC is looking for information on communities of interest — areas with shared interests or features like demographics and geography.

“You can go to our website, wedrawthelinesca.org, to get more information on signing up, and information on what we're looking for in the community of interest input,” Fornaciari said.

To participate in SLO County’s redistricting process by submitting public comment or a proposed community of interest, you can call 805-781-1085 or email redistricting@coslo.ca.gov.

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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