Redistricting Commission approves final draft maps
July 31, 2011
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved the final drafts of the state’s controversial new district maps today, setting off what many expect to be a flurry of lawsuits over the next two weeks. [CaliforniaWatch]
The commission now has until Aug. 15 to formally certify the maps and present them to the secretary of state. If the maps are not adopted by then, they will be sent to the state Supreme Court, California Watch said.
Special interest groups including the California Friends of the African American Caucus, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting have objected to the lines and threatened to sue.
Last weekend, the commission voted to retain a pair of major San Francisco law firms – Morrison Foerster and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to handle any litigation, which the state has backed by setting aside $1.5 million.
“Ultimately, we would hope that the quality of the maps is such that it will convince everybody that we’ve followed all the criteria, and we’ve done our very best and we have actually been representative of the people of California,” Commission Chairman Gabino Aguirr said. “However, because this is new territory and because of the complexity of what we’ve done, there are some folks who perhaps will not fully understand and appreciate the labor that has gone into this, the transparency of the process, the following of all that criteria and will in fact go to court to challenge us on those levels.”
The move to go with two firms sent a strong message that the commission intends to fight any legal challenges, said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California to California Watch. Schnur said the chances of litigation were “pretty significant,” and that if the maps do end up in the hands of the Supreme Court the result might not be so bad for voters.
“At this point it seems almost certain that there will be a legal challenge,” he said, adding that when the court stepped in 20 years ago the results were the most equitable maps the state has seen “in a generation.”
“Giving this to the courts may have been the best reform to begin with,” he said. “But it would have been impossible to pass an initiative to do that in the first place.”
Formed when voters approved Proposition 11 in 2008, the commission must consider a variety of factors when drawing the maps, including geographical compactness, keeping communities of interest together and protecting minority representation pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, California Watch added.
While some legislators find themselves in districts with multiple incumbents under the new maps, many districts are now without a single lawmaker, prompting at least 10 legislators to already announce a run for Congress, according to California Watch.
At least nine of the 14 commissioners must vote yes, including three yes votes each from Republicans, Democrats and those affiliated with neither party, in order to approve the final draft.