What are the Rules?
Equal population: Both federal and state law require that districts be as nearly equal in population as is practical, taking into account the total population of the county including citizens and non-citizens, age-eligible voters, and those not yet old enough to vote. (Federal courts have interpreted the equal population standard to mean that a redistricting plan is valid if the total deviation between the largest and smallest district is <10% in order to meet other mandated legal requirements).
In 1991, the State Attorney General issued an opinion that the state prison population may be excluded from the total county population for the purposes of adjusting county supervisorial district boundaries.
In California, State prisoners are not allowed to vote while incarcerated or while on parole. Prisoners remain legal residents of the community where they lived prior to their arrest.
In this county, there are approximately 7,400 state prisoners (more than 6,400 at the California Men’s Colony and another 1,000 or more at Atascadero State Hospital).
The San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors has directed staff to exclude the State prison population incarcerated in these two facilities from the total population of the county for the purposes of redistricting, as was done in 2001.
Compliance with Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act: Federal and state law requires a redistricting plan not be discriminatory against racial or language minorities in either purpose or effect, even if unintended. This is the area of most significant legal challenge since the redistricting process in 1991. Such discrimination most often occurs when minority voters are concentrated in a district in numbers far greater than is needed for them to elect a candidate of their choice, thus minimizing the impact of minority votes. Alternatively, discrimination will also occur when a large and geographically concentrated minority population is split between two districts where they are unlikely to be able to elect candidates of their choice, when, if kept together, they would be able to elect such a candidate.