Kern Community College District to undergo redistricting process to align with California Voting Rights Act | December 14, 2019

The Kern Community College District is in the early stages of a redistricting process that could potentially affect all trustee representation areas, according to district Chancellor Thomas Burke.

At Thursday’s board meeting, an initial public hearing was held to educate the board of trustees on the redistricting process. No updated boundary maps were shown and no action was taken, but a timeline of the process was determined.

Public hearings are scheduled for Jan. 16 and Feb. 13, and a special public hearing could be held between Feb. 13 and March 12, if necessary.

At the Feb. 13 meeting, the board will be presented with three or four different maps showing potential boundary lines. If any changes need to be made, those updated maps would be presented at the special meeting.

The board set a goal date of adopting new boundaries on March 12.

Burke said in an email Thursday that KCCD is undergoing a redistricting process “to align the District with the requirements of the California (Voting) Rights Act.”

“Since the District’s last redistricting in 2012, there have been clarifications made to the California (Voting) Rights Act. Typically these changes would be incorporated into the District’s next required redistricting, incorporating the CVRA changes and results of the 2020 National Census,” Burke explained. “In light of these changes in the CVRA, the Board of Trustees has decided to proactively move forward now to align its area boundaries consistent with the requirements of the CVRA.”

There are currently five district areas with seven trustees. Area 1, which includes Bakersfield, is held by trustees Kyle Carter and Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, while trustees Dennis Beebe and Kay Meek oversee Area 3, which includes Arvin. Area 2, the largest, is held by Jack Connell.

With the new boundaries, Burke explained, the district will move to seven trustee areas, which will each have one trustee representative.

According to district documents, Meek, Beebe and Area 4 Trustee Romeo Agbalog’s terms expire in 2020. The other four seats will be up for election in 2022.

The California Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law in 2002, prohibits the use of any election system to “impair the ability of a protected class … to elect candidates of its choice or otherwise influence the outcome of an election.”

District officials did not say if the redistricting is the result of a court order, but according to board documents, “With heightened concern over the California Voting Rights Act, the coming 2020 census and pending redistricting cycle in 2021, public entities such as the California Community Colleges need well qualified experts to help advance their community goals, as well as protect them from legal and political liabilities associated with non-compliance to state and federal voting rights act laws.”

“The board of trustees is committed to a fair, thoughtful and transparent process to develop new district boundaries that are not only legally compliant, but just as importantly reflective and representative of the expansive community we serve,” said Agbalog.

The district will work with Redistricting Partners LLC during the process.

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