It happens once every 10 years — the Lassen County Board of Supervisors updates the supervisorial district boundaries based on population numbers from the U.S, Census. Ah, but do you remember what a difference a decade makes?
Back in 2011, with district 5 supervisor Jack Hanson facing a possible recall, conspiracy theorists — including Lassen County District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick and county resident Jean Hodge — alleged that behind closed doors the county’s powerbrokers created a redistricting plan designed to disrupt the recall effort by changing the boundaries of districts 3 and 5 in order to protect Hanson.
In an email to Lassen County Clerk Julie Bustamane, Wosick urged the clerk and the ad hoc committee that had drawn the boundaries to reconsider their advisory recommendation because it would disenfranchise those seeking Hanson’s recall.
According to Wosick’s email, he was trying to stop a “massive backlash campaign against the board” because changes to the boundaries of districts 3 and 5 were not necessary, “had an effect on a recall that was in motion weeks prior to the recommendations” and had an adverse effect on thousands of voters.
“We can do without the black eye that will surely result should the board play a role in affecting a recall,” Wosick wrote. “I urge the committee to consider the potential consequences, and with all things considered change your recommendation … “
Hodge also threw a log on the conspiracy theory fire.
In a letter to the editor at the Lassen County Times, Hodge wrote the recommendation from the ad hoc committee is designed to disrupt Hanson’s recall.
According to Hodge’s letter, “Crafty, corrupt career politicians” are setting the supervisorial boundaries in an effort “to save their fellow compadres.”
Hodge asked, “Is this a conspiracy to disenfranchise voters and to subvert the power of the board of supervisors? OMG. These people are sworn to uphold the Constitution, and now they are trampling our rights.”
But like many conspiracy theories, this one was all smoke and no fire — the 2011 redistricting plan had absolutely no effect on the campaign to recall Hanson.
As Rick Crabtree, then Lassen County counsel, explained, “The recall election is properly held in the district as it existed at the time the district supervisor was elected, based on established California law interpreting similar state redistricting election issues.”
Crabtree quoted Elections Code section 21506, “The term of any elected supervisor who has been elected and whose term of office has not yet expired shall not be affected by any change in the boundaries of the district from which he or she was elected.”
This year there was no public participation or controversy with the committee setting the boundaries.
The ad hoc committee offered three different redistricting proposals and recommended Proposal 3 because, among other reasons, it reduced the number of ballots the county clerk would have to create when special districts held elections at the same time as the supervisors.
The plan also left district 3, which includes Janesville, with a few hundred fewer voters than other districts, allowing the district room to grow as the population there is expected to increase in the future.
Supervisors Jeff Hemphill and Tom Hammond both said they preferred Proposal 1, but after a discussion, the board directed the county clerk’s office to begin to gather the legal documents on Proposal 3, which the board plans to approve at its Tuesday, Dec. 14 meeting.