The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors recently approved adjustments to district boundaries throughout the Peninsula, largely leaving intact the original map.
The change comes as a result of the county’s decision to switch from an at-large voting process, in which all residents voted for each supervisor, to a system where residents only vote for the candidate who would represent their district, much like in San Francisco.
A committee comprising supervisors and other municipal officials held public meetings over several months to gather input for the new boundaries. Residents and organizations drew up their own maps and submitted them online for consideration.
Ultimately, supervisors chose a map with divisions that do not deviate radically from the original, causing some to express disappointment with the decision.
Carolyn Hsu of the Asian Law Caucus said she is concerned about possible future issues arising from the process and outcome. While the committee voiced support for three potential maps in its community meetings, the board ultimately rejected those ideas.
“Where the board itself has acknowledged the serious conflict of issue that comes with elected officials drawing their own electoral lines, the board’s drawing of a new map, unvetted by the people, sets an alarming precedent for the county,” she said.
The entire city of San Mateo remains in District 1, but the makeup of District 4 changes by uniting Redwood City and East Menlo Park. This results in a slight increase in minority populations in the district.
Districts 2, 3 and 5 stay nearly the same as before, although part of San Bruno is now incorporated into District 5.
One of the alternatives, dubbed the Community Unity Map, which was supported by Hsu and local Republican Party members, would have divided San Mateo between districts 1 and 2 and incorporated part of South San Francisco into District 1.
District 1 Supervisor Dave Pine stressed that the bottom line is that the county updated its voting process to be more inclusive.
“It is important not to lose sight of the fact that regardless of how the district lines are drawn, the political landscape has fundamentally changed,” he said. “Now a respected community member with a record of public service — whether they are Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, or of any other race or ethnicity — can run for a seat on the Board of Supervisors and have a good shot at winning.”
The new map will become effective in time for November 2014 supervisorial elections.
The change to district elections came as a result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Asian and Latino residents who alleged that the outdated at-large system diluted their voice and voting strength. The redistricting process was part of a February settlement.