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How the new redistricting draft could affect Monterey County ag workers

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Monterey County leaders are expressing disappointment over a redistricting draft that would essentially split the Salinas Valley in half.

Parts of South Monterey County that are normally in the same congressional district would be split. Soledad would be in a completely different district than its Salinas Valley neighbors.

The districts — drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) — decide who is represented by which elected officials in Congress, the State Senate and State Assembly.

The redistricting process only happens every 10 years after the census is taken. The districts are drawn based on new populations following these criteria:

  • All districts have to be of equal population
  • Districts have to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act
  • Districts must have contiguity, meaning all parts of the district are connected or bordering each other
  • And as best as possible, keep cities, counties, neighborhoods and communities of interest together

"Those draft maps are designed in a lot of ways based on community interest. And as you can imagine, depending on who you are, different people have very different communities of interest," said Neal Fornaciari, a commissioner for the CCRC.

But county supervisor Luis Alejo disagrees with the way the drafts were drawn.

"The problem with the commission is that we didn't have any representation from any members from the Monterey Bay or the Central Coast. So we lack someone with real knowledge of our local communities," said Alejo. "This is about representation and communities who share common values, common local economy and that have always had a common identity."

Alejo says our congressional district has long included Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties together.

But the new maps put Greenfield, King City and Gonzales, along with San Benito County, in the eastern district with San Jose and Cupertino — an area more focused on tech than agriculture.

"That makes little or no sense when you have a community that's really oriented around agriculture as its main economic driver. We have a lot of residents who are Hispanic, who work in agriculture and really need that representation for the whole valley," said Norm Groot, the Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau. "Talking about our representation in Washington, D.C., our current congressional representative has done a really great job of representing agriculture here and really takes to heart a lot of the issues that we have going on and in many instances has written some very supportive bills. We're really concerned that we're going to be losing a lot of representation by dividing up the valley this way."

Groot says the new proposed districts could also weaken local voting strength due to lower populations in the southern area.

"If we're going to link the Eastern District that they're proposing with San Jose and Cupertino and other metropolitan areas farther north from us, that means the representation in the Salinas Valley will be little to none. There will be little chance that we ever have an elected official from this particular area," said Groot.

But there is still time to make changes. The commission holds meetings multiple times a week where community members can call in and give their input. They also accept written input here.

Fornaciari says the commissioners hope to finalize their maps by December 20 before they are officially certified on the 27th.

"I just want people to know that we're hearing their public input. We're going through all of that public feedback submitted to our website. We are taking the feedback to heart and we're doing the best we can, in the context of the rules we have to follow," said Fornaciari.

You can view an interactive map of the new district proposals here.

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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