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Community advocates critical of Fresno County redistricting map vote call for an independent commission

After months of public hearings, Fresno County Supervisors have voted on a redistricting map that will now head to a final vote in December.

Dozens of people lined up to speak at Tuesday’s redistricting public hearing, voicing concerns that the maps being considered don’t represent Fresno County’s changing demographics.

In an interview after the hearing, Marianne Kast, President of the League of Women Voters of Fresno, pointed out that a majority of Fresno County’s population is Latino.

“We know that immigrant and farm worker populations are out there. We know that they're increasingly registering to vote and voicing their needs,” she said.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Latinos make up 54% of the population. Despite the data, Kast says that the new map that the supervisors approved, known as Map D, looks similar to the current map, established in 2011. Map D was a version of Map 101b, recommended by the redistricting advisory commission.

Kast said the problem stems from the redistricting advisory commission. She’s been critical of supervisors choosing members of their own commission.

“An independent redistricting commission doesn't have any loyalty to a particular supervisor and that's what it needs to be,” she said.

But District 5 Supervisor Nathan Magsig argued the members he chose for the commission, a woman from a mountain community and a Hispanic man from Clovis, do represent the diversity of his district. And, he added, the map maintains a majority of minority-led districts.

“Three of our five representatives represent areas that are primarily minority in nature when you look at the overall population,” he said.

Magsig said he also took geographical continuity into consideration when he voted on Map D.

“I believe that it does minimize the dividing of neighborhoods and all five districts continue to be compact,” he said.

Magsig said he expects supervisors to ratify Map D at the final hearing on December 14, after four out of five board members voted in favor of it. Magsig said supervisors are required to meet a December deadline to adopt a new redistricting map.

Meanwhile, Kast said she’s looking into a group effort to begin an independent redistricting process in Fresno County that she hopes will be in place in the next 10 years.

The December 14 hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. at the Fresno County Hall of Records. It’s open to all residents.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with 16 years of experience in radio, television and digital production. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.