The resignation of Mark Medina from the San Benito County Supervisors in June 2021 came as a complete surprise, but it seemed to be a simple matter to fill his seat: Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Betsy Dirks to the District 1 seat until the 2022 election, at which point voters would elect someone to fill out the final two years of Medina’s term.
Reapportionment caused the district boundaries to be redrawn following the 2020 census and when the new map was adopted by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 14, it created a curious legal problem: who within the newly defined District 1 could vote in that election?
The matter was resolved on Dec. 16, when California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued an opinion saying the election would be held within the district boundaries that were in place when Medina was elected.
The slight shifting of boundaries, however, has left 401 out of 8,771 registered voters in District 1 unable to vote for a supervisor in the 2022 special election because they did not live within the district lines prior to redistricting.
On Jan. 4, San Benito County Clerk Joe Paul Gonzalez sent a letter to voters. “Only voters residing within former District 1 boundaries will be eligible to vote in the special election,” the letter stated. “Voters participating in the District 1 special election will not be issued ballots for the regular election for District 3 or 4 supervisors being conducted in 2022, even if the area of their residence has been re-assigned to either of those districts with the new district map.”
This means residents who got moved from District 1 to either District 3 or 4 following the redistricting will be voting on who represents their old district for the next two years, but are unable to vote for who will represent them for the next four years.
San Benito County Assistant Clerk Francisco Diaz said the new districts took effect Jan. 1.
“There are different ways to look at it,” said Chief Deputy County Clerk Ana De Castro Maquiz. “One way is that those voters have already voted when they were in their previous district, so they can’t vote again in their new district. Another way to look at it is that because they were not in the district during the 2020 election, they should not be allowed to vote for the supervisor for that area.”
The elections for the District 3 and 4 supervisors will, according to Maquiz, be held within the new redistricted boundaries.
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