ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Union High School District has requested the court dismiss a gerrymandering lawsuit related to a previously-adopted trustee area map, arguing the case is now moot since the county assumed control of the school board’s redistricting process and adopted a new map.
The original lawsuit, filed by district parents Carol Chang and Lisa Montes, alleges the map adopted by the district board of trustees in February gerrymandered the election districts of two trustees and diluted the voting power of the district’s Hispanic and Asian residents by “cracking and packing.”
However, attorneys for the San Dieguito district argued in an Aug. 25 motion that since the San Diego County Board of Education took over redistricting in April and adopted a new map, the original complaint is now moot and should be dismissed.
“This action by the County provided a new map which would supersede any actions taken by the School District in preparing its original map under Education Code 20 5019.5. Thus, any lawsuit based upon the original map prepared by the District is moot, and there is no longer a controversy for the court to decide,” the motion states.
Cory Briggs, the attorney representing Chang and Montes in their gerrymandering lawsuit, declined to comment on the motion but told the district’s attorney Randall Winet that he disagreed the matter was moot, according to the motion.
A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 22 in front of San Diego Superior Court Judge Matthew Braner.
Trustee maps establish voting areas for constituents to elect their representatives and must be updated every 10 years in alignment with new census data. Data from the 2020 Census revealed that the population in one district area had grown disproportionately and required adjustments.
However, many community members said the map adopted in a 3-2 vote by the San Dieguito school board proposed too drastic of changes, including inexplicably switching the numbers of two trustee areas, cutting another trustee out of her previous area and leaving two areas without an assigned trustee.
Chang and Montes filed their lawsuit quickly after, claiming the map packed the Hispanic community, previously represented between two areas, into one area while simultaneously splitting the Asian population from one area into three and disenfranchising a third of the district’s voting population.
The county’s Committee on School District organization took over the process in April following concerns about the map’s legality and the public hearing process. The committee adopted a new map that will be used as the basis of the district’s trustee race in the November election.
In their motion to dismiss the case, the district included declarations by Winet and Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas.
Douglas insisted in her declaration that the district followed protocol in their selection and emphasized that the map was prepared by the district’s hired demographer, Cooperative Strategies.
“Despite going through the above process, several members of the School District community voiced concerns about the selected map,” Douglas said. “They complained about the boundaries, said the map favored certain trustees and impacted the representation of minority communities. These assertions were made despite the fact that the map was prepared by an independent demographer.”
While Map 8 was checked over and possibly adjusted by the demographer before becoming one of the map finalists, officials clarified in April that Ty Nguyen initially submitted it. Nguyen’s connection to the district remains unclear.
An apparent attempt to render the lawsuit moot also came in July, when the school district brought forward a resolution officially recognizing the county-selected map.
However, Montes, one of the individuals behind the lawsuit, claimed that the resolution attempted to rewrite history by asserting that the district had followed redistricting protocols in its original map selection. The resolution failed in a 2-2 vote, with trustees Katrina Young and Julie Bronstein, both of whom voted against Map 8 in February, dissenting.
Their vote drew anger from some community members and even fellow trustees, who argued that the resolution’s passing would have ended the lawsuit. However, the county map would have gone into place regardless of the resolution, and Briggs clarified that it would not have made the case moot.
“Why they think that adopting a false document would make the lawsuit go away… that baffles me,” he said.