By Joshua Molina
Noozhawk Staff Writer
A pair of competing redistricting proposals collided July 3 at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting — and it looks like both are moving forward on the November ballot.
A group called Reason in Government gathered more than 16,000 signatures to place a measure on the ballot that would call for an independent redistricting commission to draw new supervisorial lines in 2020, at the time of the next census.
In response, Supervisor Das Williams developed a competing ordinance that he believes is more fair than the Reason in Government proposal, and that bars public employees and union members from serving on the commission.
The supervisors expressed support for Williams’ proposal, but praised Reason in Government’s proposal, which is headed by Montecito resident Bob Collector.
“Whether you like Mr. Collector’s work or not, I promise you we would not be talking about it if he hadn’t brought this forward,” Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said.
The board voted 5-0 in support of Williams’ proposal, which will have a second reading on July 17.
The board also voted unanimously to review Reason in Government’s proposal again on July 17, giving staff time to answer some of the supervisors’ questions that came up in the meeting.
Both proposals to create redistricting commissions are destined for the November ballot.
If they both fail, the process would revert to the current system; if they both pass, the one with the higher vote percentage wins.
“I think both of these copies represent a really good faith effort to do the right thing,” Supervisor Peter Adam said. “It is kind of neat that all sides are doing something.”
All of the supervisors agreed that an outside group drawing the lines would be better than the current system, in which the elected supervisors draw them.
“Anything is better than the status quo,” Lavagnino said. “When we are drawing our own lines, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
The main difference between the two proposals is that Collector’s seeks to disqualify most people affiliated with partisan politics and previous political involvement from serving on the commission, whereas Williams’ proposal looks for people with qualified experience.
For example, the Reason in Government proposal states that the districting commission would consist of five members, plus five alternates. They could not be a registered member of a political party, or have changed their political party for the eight years prior to being appointed to the commission.
The panel members also could not have been elected to an office or been a candidate during the previous eight years. The person also could not have served as an officer, employee, paid consultant or an elected or appointed member of a political party.
The restrictions would also apply to people who have family members who held those posts.
Under Williams’ proposal, however, the redistricting commission would have 11 members, with at least two members coming from each supervisorial district and one member at-large. It requires that the person voted in Santa Barbara County elections, in at least one of the last three statewide elections.
It requires applicants to possess “analytical skills relevant to the redistricting process and voting rights,” the ability to be impartial, and demonstrate an appreciation for the diverse demographics and geography of the county.
Williams’ proposal also requires the commission to be as proportional as possible to the total number of voters who are registered with each political party, and “reflect the county’s diversity, including racial, ethnic, geographic, age and gender diversity.”
In addition, Williams’ “You Draw the Lines” proposal requires the county elections official to create a pool of the 45 most qualified applicants with a minimum of five applicants from each existing supervisorial district and the District Attorney to conduct a random drawing to select one commissioner from each of district.
The five selected commissioners would appoint the remaining six applicants.
“What we want are people who are interested, but not conflicted,” Adam said.
Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.