By Neil Nisperos Staff Writer
Posted: 09/09/2011 07:43:34 PM PDT

Barstow officials are opposing a San Bernardino County redistricting plan they say would dilute the city’s Latino vote and separate neighbors with similar political interests.

The county’s proposed plan would move Barstow from the 1st District to the 3rd District.

But it’s a proposal that would move the city from a district with a 40percent Latino population to one that’s 33percent Latino, Barstow officials said.

That would be inconsistent with the federal Voting Rights Act, they said.

“It’s certainly a concern from our standpoint,” said City Manager Curt Mitchell. “The issues that were raised about diluting the minority vote in Barstow, that’s certainly a (problem), and secondly, Barstow has been a part of District 1 for a long time and it doesn’t make sense to separate it from the surrounding communities.”

Those communities include Hinkley, Newberry Springs and Yermo.

Access to the same county supervisor – in the 1st District it’s Brad Mitzelfelt – is vital, Barstow officials said, because it makes it easier to be able to advocate on the city’s behalf.

Supervisors are expected to consider final approval of the redistricting on Sept. 16.

“Whatever redistricting plan is ultimately chosen by the county Board of Supervisors, it must more closely maintain the minority representation…reflected in the population of Barstow and District 1,” Gomez wrote in a letter to the county.

County spokesman David Wert said the county’s proposed maps don’t violate the federal Voters Rights Act and the criteria set by the board. Secondly, Wert said, there wasn’t a choice because the 1st District has 60,000 too many people in it.

Redistricting is meant to balance out political representation based on population changes.

“The 1st District had to lose some territory and it had to lose a sizable population,” Wert said. “Out in the desert, there aren’t too many sizeable populations.”

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