SANTA ANA, Calif.—Orange County supervisors narrowed down their choices for new district maps from three to two on Nov. 16.
The supervisors dumped one map that was favored by Republicans and another one pushed by Democrats.
One proposed map to survive was proposed by board Vice Chairman Doug Chaffee, which was backed by Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
The main difference between Chaffee’s map and the other map backed by Chairman Andrew Do is the configuration of the Fifth District. In Do’s map many current Fifth District South County cities such as Aliso Viejo and Mission Viejo would end up in the Third District. In Do’s map, the Fifth District runs mostly down the coast to the county line.
Several South County city leaders appealed to the board to maintain most of the south county cities together in one district. But changing demographics based on the latest census made that difficult for the supervisors to do.
Supervisor Don Wagner noted that one map favored Democrats and another favored Republicans and added, “The solution to the problem of map 2 favoring one part is not to create another map 5 favoring the other party.”
Wagner pointed out that the board was prohibited by law from adopting a map that favors or discriminates against either political party.
“We’ve become increasingly purple as a county,” Wagner said, referring to Democrats outgaining Republicans in voter registration in recent years.
Wagner said he favored Do’s map, but expressed concern about how many cities would be split up between districts.
Do said he could tweak his map so that eight cities were split instead of 14 “by moving less than 4,800 people.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the board on Monday warning of “partisan gerrymandering.”
The ACLU asked the board to reject Do’s and a Republican-backed map.
The ACLU said in its letter that Democratic voter registration is trending up and Republican registration slipping and argued that some of the map proposals “seek to again entrench Republican control of the board for the next 10 years by splitting up concentrations of Democratic voters and submerging them into redder districts, impermissibly diluting their vote.”
The ACLU also criticized the map proposed by Chaffee, a Democrat, and backed by Bartlett, a Republican.
Do said he understood “this process will be heavily scrutinized,” but, “I don’t appreciate some of the rhetoric, not just from the public or interested parties, but from some of the government agencies that sounds eerily close to a threat against us that anything that we do they disagree with will be assumed to be illegal and subject us to some kind of repercussion. I really resent that sort of threat being made and at the beginning of this process.”
Do said he never supported a map backed by Republicans. He also criticized ACLU representatives for demanding what he said was a “partisan heat map” before maps were proposed. Do noted that he is termed out as is Bartlett.
Do argued that his map creates a Latino district, an Asian-influence district and keeps Anaheim’s Little Arabia united in one district as well as Little Saigon. And his map “keeps the coastal communities united, and we know based on the recent oil spill that is an important concern.”
Foley argued to keep Newport Beach and Costa Mesa in the same district. Foley suggested “flipping Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa” and “put Costa Mesa” back into District 5, where it would stay connected to Newport Beach.
Chaffee said the map he proposed keeps Costa Mesa and Newport Beach in the same district.
Bartlett said her proposed map was similar to Chaffee’s, but she liked his better because it “minimizes the city splits and it keeps some of the major areas together, so I think it is a good map.”
Bartlett said she wanted to keep Laguna Hills and Aliso Viejo together in District 5 and move Irvine east of the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway to District 3.
“There are three major construction of transportation infrastructure projects and they need to be coordinated among all of those stakeholders” in those south county cities, Bartlett said. “So keeping them all together in one district really makes a lot of sense.”
Both proposed maps leave the most recently elected supervisor, Katrina Foley, out on a political limb. Foley was elected in March to finish the term of Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Huntington Beach) when she was elected to Congress.
Foley is up for re-election next year, but the Democrat will either end up in a heavily Republican Fifth District, according to one map, or if she continued to reside in Costa Mesa she would have to run in the First District, which won’t elect a supervisor until 2024.
At one point during the discussion at Tuesday’s board meeting when it appeared her proposed changes wouldn’t be voted on, she complained she was being “politically targeted.”
“Now you’re putting me up in a district not up for re-election … until 2024, so I wouldn’t be allowed to run,” Foley said, referring to the map proposed by Do. “You say it’s not political targeting, but it’s pretty obvious that it is … Just admit it and be
honest with the public.”
Do responded that “this process is fluid,” so he made sure her proposed amendments were included for staff to review.
The county staff will consider the tweaks to the two final maps and the supervisors will settle on one at a special meeting on Monday.