Minimal change map

Despite some community concerns surrounding San Mateo County’s redistricting process, supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a minimal change map that they argue respects communities of interests and best provides people of color with a path to political office.

“Again, the Communities Together Map which is close to the map we currently have, provides a clear pathway for people of color to win a seat on the board compared to the Unity Map,” David Canepa, president of the Board of Supervisors, said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The minimal change map, renamed the Communities Together Map, largely keeps the county’s five districts as they are after adjusting for population changes discovered during the 2020 U.S. Census which is updated every 10 years.

Supervisors have faced criticism from members of the District Lines Advisory Commission, a body of 15 appointed county residents tasked with leading the redistricting process, and other community members for opting to support a Communities Together Map instead of one of the two maps jointly recommended to the board in an 8-7 vote.

One was drafted by Commissioner Rudy Espinoza Murray who aimed to create a map with greater political power for minority groups. The other, titled the Unity Map, was drafted by the Unity Coalition in partnership with about a dozen nonprofits. That map prioritized grouping areas together based on their top priorities such as keeping coastal communities in one district over keeping cities whole.

Supervisors, who ultimately have the final say on which map to select regardless of the commission’s recommendations, have argued the Communities Together Map marries the best parts of the Espinoza and Unity maps by keeping as many cities whole as possible while key areas remain grouped together.

But members of the public and commissioners questioned the intent of enlisting the assistance of an advisory commission after the board signaled it wouldn’t support one of the maps drafted by the group. Some have suggested the board’s decision to support the Communities Together Map was politically motivated while others have argued supervisors were afraid of making the changes necessary to see more minorities claim seats on the board.

Canepa and Supervisor Don Horsley pushed back on the criticisms by arguing consensus was never reached on the draft maps with Horsley noting the minimal change map failed by only one vote. The Advisory Commission never held an individual vote on either of the two recommended maps but a motion to rank the Unity Map above the Espinoza Map, which has been more criticized than the other, failed in a 10-5 vote.

“We’re making a decision today but it’s focused on what the commission has decided. There’s no unanimity. There’s no supermajority,” Canepa said. “You have a body that has afforded us a map by one vote, by one vote. But you have people who are saying we are disenfranchising communities, that we don’t care.”

He also asserted that the Communities Together Map avoided creating districts with a supermajority of white voters and took issue with the Unity Map which created two districts with 63% of white voters, one district with 50% white voters and increased voting power for white residents in other districts.

Similar increases can be found in the Communities Together Map though which creates two districts with at least 50% white voters and one district with 72% white voters while also increasing the number of white voters in all other districts compared to their share of the population.

Supervisor Don Horsley argued that the most impactful change would come from focusing on registering new voters, especially voting-age residents of color.

“We need to do a much better job of registering voters. It’s not the maps, it’s the registered voters that make the difference,” Horsley said.

A second reading of the ordinance change will come before the board next Tuesday, a day before the county’s deadline to adopt a new district map ahead of the June primaries.

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(1) comment


I wouldn't characterize it as "some community concerns". Rather, I'd say 'nearly unanimous community opposition'. It is all so disappointing.

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