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Proposed Butte County voting maps creating controversy

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BUTTE CO., Calif. - Butte County Supervisors Supervisors Debra Lucero, District 2, and Tami Ritter, District 3, are accusing the other supervisors of gerrymandering one of the potential voting district maps.

They are calling the map a political scheme because they believe it is splitting up neighborhoods of common interest.

The map splits up Chico into four different districts, Oroville into three and Cohasset from the other foothill communities.

"One of the requirements of the fair maps act is that we keep areas of interest together and we do not divide urban areas more than is necessary,” said Supervisor Tami Ritter.

Supervisor Doug Teeter presented the map at the supervisor’s last meeting on Nov. 9, and said the map the consultants created did not meet his desires.

"What the consultant brought to our last meeting, a map that had my district not cross the North Fork Feather River,” Teeter said.

He added that just because Cohasset, Forest Ranch, Paradise and the Berry Creek area are foothill communities, they do not interact with each other.

Lucero said the county hired the professional firm Redistricting Partners to manage the redistricting process since the current district map needs to be redrawn to reflect the 2020 census numbers.

According to Lucero, supervisors Bill Connelly, Tod Kimmelshue and Teeter ignored the firm’s advice and immediately voted to move forward with a redistricting map that had just been introduced.

The map would put Ritter and Lucero in the same district which could affect re-election, but Teeter told Action News Now he does not even know where Lucero lives.

"It has come to light that it was actually drawn by a government employee and long-time Republican strategist, Josh Cook,” Lucero said. “The public process has been ambushed and taxpayer dollars wasted.”

“Does it matter? He lives in Butte County? How do we know there aren't a bunch of maps drawn by friends of theirs?” Teeter said in response to the claim.

Action News Now spoke with Chico State political science professor Charles Turner about gerrymandering.

"Anytime we have to draw political boundaries there are going to be arguments about whether they are fair, or what is the best way to draw those lines,” said Turner.

Turner told Action News Now that if it violates the Voting Rights Act or Constitution it could be a legal case.

“But if the argument simply disadvantages my interests or my ideological interests then it probably doesn't meet that same criteria,” Turner said.

Supervisor Teeter thinks the map he proposed does not give anyone advantage and said places like Chico are always flipping between red and blue.

"You would feel that creating Chico-only districts would give us strong bias towards blue candidates, and it may, but when there's the right issue obviously other candidates win,” Teeter told Action News Now.

Teeter added that nothing was done in secret and he asked a consultant to look at the map he had chosen at a public meeting.

The consultant will be bringing notes forward at the next Special Board Meeting that is set for Monday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m at 25 County Center Drive in Oroville. Supervisors said public comment is highly encouraged at this meeting.

They will be looking at Map #69836, introduced by Teeter, and the other final map in the running, Map A6. Click here to see both of these maps.

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