SLO County redistricting lawsuit turns Constitution on its head

February 9, 2022

By MICHAEL NOLAN

After reading the pleadings filed by both sides in the pending case (SLO County Citizens for Good Government, Inc. v. County of San Luis Obispo) which seeks to overturn the ordinance redistricting the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, I was surprised that nobody cited Article II, Section 6(a) of the California State Constitution.

This provision, first adopted in 1972, states: “All judicial, school, county, and city offices, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction, shall be nonpartisan.” This is more than just a general statement of policy because Section 26 of Article I, the California Declaration of Rights, says “The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory and prohibitory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.”

Read together, these two provisions prohibit the Legislature from injecting partisan politics into non-partisan offices such as the Board of Supervisors. And the redistricting statute, Elections code Section 21501(b) expressly states, in part, that the board “shall adopt supervisorial district boundaries that comply with . . . the California Constitution, . . .”.

But the complaint alleges that the Legislature, by other language in Elections Code Section 21501(d), which states: “The board shall not adopt supervisorial district boundaries for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against a political party,” requires the board consider the partisan impact on political parties in redistricting a non-partisan office. They further allege that although the SLO County Counsel advised the board that the statute permitted the board to consider such a partisan political impact, the board majority refused to do so.

These arguments ignore Article II section 6(a) and essentially turns that provision on its head. The circular reasoning is apparent because it allows the Legislature to require partisan political party matters to be considered in the decision of a non-partisan board to redraw districts for an office which the Constitution requires to be non-partisan.

A more rational and constitutional interpretation of the statute is that it was only intended to support non-partisanship by prohibiting boards of supervisors to consider the impact of new districts on political parties.

It is true that the courts have ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the Legislature from enacting laws restricting political parties from endorsing and supporting candidates for non-partisan offices. However, nothing in those decisions allows the Legislature to require the consideration of partisan political party matters into the redistricting of elected non-partisan offices.

If the Legislature has that power, then it has the power to make the State Constitution’s requirement to distinguish partisan offices from non-partisan offices no more than a distinction without a difference. This would directly affect the state judiciary and every local office.

How could any legitimate “Citizen for Good Government” be in favor of that?

Judge Rita C. Federman listened earlier today to arguments of the parties concerning a temporary injunction. One of the elements required is for the plaintiffs to have a reasonable likelihood of success at trial. From my analysis I conclude, in the words of Eliza Doolittle: “Not bloody likely.”


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womanwhohasbeenthere

This redistricting lawsuit was just a scam to raise money for certain incumbent Democrats.


retiredpoliceofficer

If Citizen’s for Good Government wants to bring a lawsuit they should start with a malpractice case against the lawyers who missed the CA Constitution clause cited by Mr. Nolan in his article.


fish

it appears to me Judge Rita C. Federman made her mind up prior to her ruling. Let’s see if her decision gets appeal. Folks will donate to the black whole.


jimmy_me

Everything is partisan… why pretend it’s not? We just look the other way. Isn’t there supposed to be a separation of church and state? Then we shouldn’t we be only electing atheists to government positions? There is no difference between having the BOS create a partisan map and having the BOS not create such a map and voting for a map that is blatantly partisan: same result.


kayaknut

Where in the Constitution does it say “separation of church and state”?


Jorge Estrada

Just trying to follow, who said Constitution?


MrYan

Did you get tired of reading before you got to the 1st Amendment? By banning laws favoring one religion over another– separation of church and state ocurrs… Ipso facto…


It really doesn’t need to be spelled out for you in black and white to make it so. Why insist?


unusualsuspect

This is the result of society listening to the loudest voice in the room instead of the voice of reason…everyone is so afraid of confrontation, even debate, logic and reason is just drowned out :/


Zoiebowie

That old piece of paper doesn’t mean anything anymore. We make our decisions based on feelings now.


Mitch C

I really don’t understand, Citizens for Good Government want the adopted redistributing plan thrown out because they allege that it favors a political party, they want in its place a redistricting plan that favors their political views. I don’t see Citizens for Good Government has much more registered voters of their party than the other side, it appears that all Citizens for Good Government has to do is outwork their composition regardless of the redistricting map.