SANTA ANA, Calif.–Orange County supervisors today adopted new political district boundaries, but not without some dissension, with Buena Park leaders criticizing the splitting of their city’s representation and Latino activists saying they may challenge the vote in court.
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the five-member board, accused his fellow supervisors of “gerrymandering.”
Moorlach agreed with Buena Park leaders such as Mayor Fred Smith and Councilwoman Elizabeth Swift, who complained that the redistricting plan splits the city between the Fourth District, represented by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, and the Second District, represented by Moorlach.
Under the current map, which will change in 30 days, Nelson represents the whole city.
While cities often get split up in state legislative and federal districts, “When it comes to the local level we need to be pragmatic… Cities should remain intact,” Moorlach said.
Moorlach noted that he grew up in Buena Park, moving there in 1964. He reminisced about riding his bike through Knott’s Berry Farm and getting married in the city.
“If you give me that part of Buena Park I will the best steward of it, but I agree that dividing this city is not the right thing to do,” Moorlach said. “Colleagues, this is not right and I can’t vote for (the new map) because that’s gerrymandering.”
Like Moorlach, Nelson preferred a map recommended by a redistricting committee the supervisors tasked with drawing up new boundaries. But he said it could not draw enough votes for approval.
“If we can’t get the three votes then that can’t be our map,” Nelson said, adding that he supported the boundary lines adopted today because it was the best compromise.
Supervisor Patricia Bates said having two supervisors representing one city can sometimes work to its advantage.
“This is not a gerrymandered map,” Bates said.”The overlapping, I believe is a good thing.”
Zeke Hernandez of the Santa Ana chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens said the national leaders of his organization have authorized him to file a lawsuit over the adopted plan, but no decision has been made.
Hernandez and his organization submitted another compromise map Friday, and while it drew compliments from some board members, it was not voted on.
Hernandez said the supervisors approved a map that makes it safer for First District Supervisor Janet Nguyen to get re-elected next year by adding more Asian and white voters from Fountain Valley and western Garden Grove.
Hernandez said the league’s most recent map would have kept Buena Park in Nelson’s district and Fountain Valley in Moorlach’s district. But Stanton would have been in Nguyen’s district, adding more Latinos, who tend to side with Democrats more often than Republicans.
Swift said she was “disappointed” with the new map.
“I do feel sometimes Buena Park gets picked on a little bit,” Swift said, referring to how the city often ends up with portions of it falling into Los Angeles County for state legislative and federal districts.
“We think of ourselves as Orange County, which we should,” Swift said.