Why a lawsuit instead of a referendum?
We believe the lawsuit will be less costly, bring a swifter outcome and give us a greater chance of success. We reached this conclusion after our lawyers and others familiar with conducting referendums closely analyzed the two options.
We wish we had a better answer, but the truth is we don’t know yet. We acted promptly by filing our suit just one month after the 3-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors formally adopting the Patten map. The money we are raising will help us continue to act quickly as we go through this process. But there are many factors that affect how long a court case takes and most of them are out of our hands.
That’s also hard to predict, although we keep trying so we can budget, set fundraising goals and be as transparent as possible. Right now we aim to raise $400,000. Total costs will be affected by factors outside our control, such as choices made by the defendant; whether or not discovery is required or experts become involved; and how long the case remains in the court system. We are already much closer to our fundraising goal than we’d ever dared to hope and are deeply grateful to the many, many people who have been donating to support this effort.
How is the money being spent?
Our key cost is the fee for our specialized legal team. We have other minimal costs for website hosting, online platform management, Paypal fees, and the time-consuming and expensive process of getting the public record compiled (involving thousands of pages of transcripts of public comment) for use in court proceedings. Our costs would be even higher if we did not have several people donating their time and expertise to help out.
For our lead counsel, we have hired Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger LLP, a public interest firm with expertise in election law. We feel fortunate to have found a firm with a strong litigation team and the specialist knowledge we need.
We also have several local lawyers working pro bono, including Michael C. Normoyle and Jeffrey R. Stein. Our local legal team put together a detailed foundation for the case and is working closely with our lead counsel.
For more information on our legal team, please see our About
Why is the Patten map illegal?
The Patten map radically redraws our county election districts in nonsensical ways in an effort to give one party more power than it would otherwise have. In the process, the new map splits up longstanding communities of interest and dilutes the voice of Latino voters. All of these problems put the Patten map at odds with California Elections Code 21500. To see how the Patten map redraws the districts and for examples of the strange outcomes it would lead to for voters please go to our Legal Effort
What do you want the court to do?
Ultimately, we want the court to overturn the decision to adopt the Patten map and require the Board of Supervisors to adopt a map that meets the state’s legal requirements. We also want the court to order a preliminary injunction before the full case is argued, to prevent the Patten map from being implemented while the lawsuit is underway.
What is a preliminary injunction and how does it work?
It is a court order temporarily prohibiting an action, so that the status quo is preserved while the underlying case is decided. We will ask the court to issue a preliminary injunction halting implementation of the Patten map while our lawsuit proceeds. The final decision on the Patten map would come later, when the lawsuit concludes. Note that a court’s decision on a preliminary injunction request does not suggest anything about how it will rule on the lawsuit itself.
If the court issues a preliminary injunction, what map would we use for 2022 elections?
The court has the discretion to decide. Our hope is that the court would order the county to continue using the district boundaries that have been in place for the last 10 years while the lawsuit proceeds.
What if the lawsuit fails?
We don’t expect that outcome, but if we are unable to win in court we will continue to find ways to promote fair voting processes and good government in our county.
Who is the legal representation for the county?
The county has hired Jeff Dunn at Best, Best & Krieger.
Are there any other lawsuits being brought against the county on redistricting?
Not at this time, as far as we know. You may have heard that the Latino Caucus of California Counties is concerned about gerrymandering and the recent redistricting process. The group sent a letter to state Attorney General Rob Bonta asking him to look into potential violations of redistricting law in three counties, including ours. The group is made up of Latino county supervisors statewide, including SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg.
Are you aware of other similar actions to challenge redistricting nationwide?
Yes, other actions are occurring across the US. For example, this New York Times article is about the Supreme Court of Illinois striking down political gerrymandering efforts in that state. And recently the North Carolina State Supreme Court said maps of the state’s 14 House districts and state legislative districts violated guarantees of free elections, speech and assembly. New York Times: North Carolina Court Says G.O.P. Political Maps Violate State Constitution New York Times: Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Republican Gerrymander of Map