Sonoma County supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to establish a 15-member commission overseeing the redrawing of county supervisor districts.
The Sonoma County Advisory Redistricting Commission will advise the board in its effort to redraw electoral lines and could begin meeting as soon as April or May after county staff vet and choose its members.
The commission will be comprised of two residents from each of the county’s five supervisor districts as well as five at-large members that each represent the entire county.
California redistricting law prohibits elected officials in the county and their family and staff members from serving on the commission.
The board also voted to allocate up to $130,000 to facilitate interpretation and translation of redistricting details as well as to train the appointees to the commission.
Board Chair Lynda Hopkins suggested the board consider offering a stipend to commission members considering that some of them may be working parents or lower-income residents that cannot freely dedicate several hours to the commission throughout the year.
“Sometimes these types of commissions wind up being dominated by folks who have the time and the money to participate,” Hopkins said. “And I don’t want that to be basically a barrier to entry for meaningful citizens’ engagement.”
The board is likely to formally consider stipends for commission members when county staff return to the board to propose the commission’s full makeup in late March.
While data from the 2020 U.S. Census is officially due at the end of March, delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic could push the data release into the summer.
However, the county will still be charged with adopting redrawn district lines 175 days or more before the statewide primary election on June 7, 2022. On its current timeline, the board would do so on Dec. 7, eight days before the deadline on Dec. 15.
While some board members expressed concerns that the commission could disproportionately place some demographics like residents in unincorporated parts of the county in a certain number of districts, Supervisors David Rabbitt and Chris Coursey suggested the board appoint commission members and then “get out of the way”.
“I’m okay with an advisory committee but I think it’s important that we don’t get too fine grained in our direction to that committee to the point where voters see us as steering this process,” Coursey said. “I would like it to be citizen-led.”
The board will be required to hold a minimum of four public hearings with the commission, according to the county. At least one of those meetings must also be held prior to the release of a draft redrawn map.
With the board’s vote Tuesday, applications will be open through March 23, according to the county. Interested residents can send questions about the county’s redistricting process and find out how to apply by emailing email@example.com.