California Supreme Court denies request to intervene on SLO County redistricting



California's highest court denied a local group's request to place an immediate hold on San Luis Obispo County's redistricting map and overturn a superior court ruling enabling its use for the June primary election.

In a surprise move, the San Luis Obispo County Citizens for Good Government appealed the local court's Feb. 9 decision directly to the state Supreme Court, citing "uncontradicted evidence" that the newly drawn map illegally benefited the Republican Party, and would cause irreparable harm if implemented.

"Without intervention by this court, an election will proceed on the basis of a map adopted to confer improper partisan advantage, thousands of voters in SLO County will lose the right to vote in the June 2022 election, and thousands will see the power of their votes diluted on a partisan basis," Citizens for Good Government argued in its Feb. 14 appeal.

The Supreme Court denied the request the next day. In a short statement, Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye cited case law that says courts should not intercede on redistricting based on "difficult estimates and predictions from a record which is necessarily truncated and incomplete."

The court denied the request without prejudice—meaning it did not make a ruling on the merits of the case, which will continue on in SLO County Superior Court under Judge Rita Federman.

In a Feb. 16 email to its supporters, Citizens for Good Government leaders Jim Gardiner, Patricia Gomez, Linda Seifert, and Rick TerBorch wrote that "our efforts to overturn the gerrymandered Patten Map continue, and we remain confident we will prevail."

But the group acknowledged that the ruling effectively means the new county map will be used in the June 7 elections for supervisorial Districts 2 and 4.

"In an effort to do everything we could to prevent the Patten map from being used in June's elections, we asked the California Supreme Court ... to intervene. We felt that was the most strategic route, the most economically efficient and the responsible thing to do for our county," the email read. "Our fight continues."

In her Feb. 9 ruling to reject a motion for a preliminary injunction against the map, Judge Federman wrote that the SLO County Board of Supervisors likely skirted state law by deliberately ignoring the partisan data that showed the map's favoritism toward the Republican Party. But she argued that tabling the new map and installing a different map—likely a version of the old 2011 map—would be even more disruptive.

"If the county is provisionally restrained but ultimately prevails on the merits, the court will have prevented the 2022 election from proceeding on a map that it subsequently determines was duly adopted," Federman wrote. "Such an outcome would be detrimental to the democratic process and contrary to the principles of judicial restraint articulated by the case law."

Acknowledging that her decision is "an imperfect outcome," Federman concluded it was the "least undesirable" under the circumstances. Δ


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