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County redistricting lawsuit gets hearing date, judge

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The San Luis Obispo County redistricting showdown has its first court date set.

At an upcoming Feb. 10 hearing, SLO County Citizens for Good Government will argue to a superior court judge that the county's new supervisorial map was "blatantly" gerrymandered by Republicans and should be set aside immediately via a preliminary injunction. Meanwhile, county attorneys will defend the map voted in by the majority of the Board of Supervisors.

LEGAL MAP? A judge will hear arguments for and against a motion for a preliminary injunction against SLO County's redistricting map on Feb. 10. - MAP COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • Map Courtesy Of SLO County
  • LEGAL MAP? A judge will hear arguments for and against a motion for a preliminary injunction against SLO County's redistricting map on Feb. 10.

Shortly after commencing litigation against the county on Jan. 12, Citizens for Good Government—a coalition of citizens that formed to stand up a legal fight to the county—filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the "Patten map" and asked for an expedited hearing.

"We tried to do everything we can to have this heard before the court as soon as possible," Citizens for Good Government spokesperson Quinn Brady told New Times. "The preliminary injunction helps us to get it in front of the court ASAP."

Court records indicate that the parties are working backward from the June 7 primary election date for scheduling, since two supervisor races will be on that ballot and subject to the new districts. According to court records, the county clerk-recorder has until Feb. 15 to provide voter precinct data to the secretary of state to administer the next election.

In a legal brief filed on Jan. 25, Citizens for Good Government's attorneys argued that the court should install a "status quo" map to replace the Patten map, which they argued made dramatic, partisan changes to the previous district lines.

"Because deadlines ... are imminent, a preliminary injunction enjoining implementation of the Patten map is necessary to preserve the status quo and avoid irreparable harm to petitioners and the public," the brief states. "The board's adoption of the Patten map blatantly violated the Fair Maps Act ... and does so to the significant benefit of the Republican Party."

SLO County Superior Court Judge Rita Federman will preside over the case, after assigned Judge Hernaldo Baltodano recused himself on Jan. 25. While the record of Baltodano's recusal came without explanation, his wife, Erica, sits on the SLO Legal Assistance Foundation (SLOLAF)'s board of directors with one of the plaintiffs, Patricia Gomez, according to SLOLAF's website.

Regardless of the court's decision following the Feb. 10 hearing, Brady said the lawsuit will continue on and there's likely a long road ahead. Brady said that even if the motion for a preliminary injunction is denied, the court could still ultimately side in their favor at future hearings.

"There's not really a deadline right now that would prevent the court from ordering the county to conduct the elections with a legally compliant map," Brady said. Δ

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