New Proposed Bill Would Create Independent Redistricting Commission for Riverside County
KVCR’s Jonathan Linden spoke with Corona Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes about her new bill (AB-1307), which would create an independent redistricting commission for Riverside County.
Jonathan Linden: For 91.9 KVCR News, I'm Jonathan Linden. I'm joined now by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, whose district includes Corona, Eastvale, and Jurupa Valley. On January 12, her bill AB-1307 passed through its first round of committee. To start assemblymember, can you tell listeners more about the bill and what some of your main motivations were in writing it?
Sabrina Cervantes: Well, I do want to just start off by saying that last year in December, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to adopt a supervisor map for the 2020 round of redistricting that we believe fractures the Latinx community within the county diluting the community's voting power and their capacity to elect a representative of their choice. The county's failure to protect voting rights and comply with state and federal law really demonstrates why an independent citizens redistricting commission is needed to draw fair maps for Riverside County. So this is what AB-1307 does. We are able to address some of the concerns that we saw during this last adoption at the County Board of Supervisors. This bill is modeled after other commissions in LA County and San Diego County, in which bills have also been introduced to ensure that they have a Citizens Redistricting Committee. Similar eligibility requirements and prohibitions do apply, as we've seen AB-1307 as well.
Jonathan Linden: Yeah, and was this kind of a collaboration with your fellow Latinx assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Jose Medina, who also serve Riverside County?
Sabrina Cervantes: It is; we are working in collaboration. We know that data has shown that our Latinx community in Riverside County has (grown by) 20.8% in the past decade, representing almost 50% of the county. So it was important for us to speak up because we know that historically, we have had a severe and disappointing lack of Latino representation within county government despite the fact that Latinos make up the majority of our county's population.
Jonathan Linden: And before these official maps were approved, did either three of you assemblymembers, were any of you able to speak with any of these Board of Supervisors and kind of try to press them to not approve the maps that were approved?
Sabrina Cervantes: It was a community-led effort, and so there was a grassroots effort of folks who were very engaged within the process. We were in conversation with different staffers within the county board of supervisors, just asking them to really provide fair boundaries for these maps and transparency as well. So at the end of the day, we were really disappointed that they moved forward by a vote of four to one. And this is why we need to make sure that AB-1307 does move through the legislative process because it does provide fair boundaries for Riverside County Supervisor districts by creating this independent citizens commission. At the end of the day, we need to make sure that we entrust... we put impartial, independent citizens at the helm of creating these maps. And that is what this bill does.
Jonathan Linden: And I had spoken to a SoCal ACLU lawyer about the redistricting maps, and they wouldn't say if they were going to file a lawsuit, but it definitely seemed like they were. Have you heard any developments if there are going to be any lawsuits that are going to be directed towards Riverside County for these maps?
Sabrina Cervantes: At this time, I am not aware of any legal action taken against the approved maps. However, as you have mentioned, there have been multiple organizations and individuals advocating for maps that have at least two Latino majority supermajority districts. And so we are just watching and monitoring at the moment that there was a report released by the UCLA voting rights project that found that the county could be at risk of legal action if the board failed to create two such districts.
Jonathan Linden: And the next question I wanted to ask was why just Riverside County and not all California counties? Why just us specifically for a statewide bill?
Sabrina Cervantes: Well, I represent Riverside County, and so I felt that it was best that I helped make this change within the county that I represent, especially given the major issues we saw in just this last redistricting process and how it was conducted. And so, we felt that focusing on the county that I represent was the best approach.
Jonathan Linden: And Assemblymembers Cervantes, was there anything else you wanted to share with listeners today?
Sabrina Cervantes: Yes, if we as members of the legislature do not get to draw our own districts, why should the Riverside County Board of Supervisors be any different? I want to make sure that the fourth largest county can join LA and San Diego County in having their own independent commission. It's about time that we joined them.
Jonathan Linden: All right. Well, it was a pleasure speaking with you again, Assemblymember Cervantes, and thank you for your time.
Sabrina Cervantes: Thank you so much, Jonathan. Have a good day.