Voters push to take local redistricting of politicians

All three bills establish criteria for commission members similar to the statewide commission. For example, anyone who ran for or was elected to public office in the last ten years would not be eligible.

California Common Cause, which led efforts for the independent statewide redistricting commission, said it supports the goals of the three bills, but wants to see the language around partisan composition changed.

The bills — modeled after those approved for Los Angeles and San Diego counties — call for the 14-member commissions to reflect each county’s partisan makeup. Common Cause recommends either five Democrats, five Republicans, and four members with no party preference, like the state commission, or one member who completely removes partisanship from the nomination process.

“We really want to emphasize that we are extremely supportive and that any approach is superior to the current incumbent-focused process,” said Alesandra Lozano, program manager for California Common Cause’s Voting Rights & Redistricting Division. “We noted that in the event that changes were not taken and implemented, we recommend requiring supermajority final approval for maps to ensure approved maps have broad support. “

The future of local redistricting

A dozen new independent municipal and departmental commissions drew maps over the past year for voters to use from 2022 to 2030, using 2020 census data. There are four counties with independent commissions, 24 with advisory commissions and 30 without commissions, according to Common Cause.

“Redistricting at the county level seems to receive less attention than redistricting at the state or city level,” Sietse Goffard, senior program coordinator with the human rights team, said via email. vote of the Asian Law Caucus.

But in the past two redistrictings following the once-in-a-decade census, the public has been more engaged, officials from the Asian Law Caucus and the League of Women Voters of California said.

Maps drawn by independent commissions do not guarantee the process is flawless – but because the commissions have specific guidelines, the results are usually better than when elected officials redistrict, advocates say.

The Los Angeles County maps were first redrawn by an independent commission, and the process was an improvement over previous mapping, said Chris Carson, director of redrawing for the League of Women Voters of California. When the commission was appointed by the supervisory board, it was clear that the appointees were acting in the interests of the supervisors, she said.

According to the commission’s final report, the independent commission created a new predominantly Latino neighborhood and was able to keep most of the city’s historically black community together, as well as bring together seaside communities and heavily industry-defined towns. entertainment.

Christian Grose, professor of political science and public policy at the University of Southern California, said that in the absence of a statewide requirement, a county-by-county approach could be a way smart to test the waters of requiring independent commissions in places where they could have a high impact, like Kern County.

“It’s potentially easier to get help when it’s just a specific geographic area,” he said.

The test cases could not only lead to more bills that would require independent redistricting, Grose said, but could also cause some counties to decide to do it themselves.

California Common Cause, which has observed more than 60 redistrictings in the past year, is still reviewing its data to determine its legislative recommendations for next year.

“From this last cycle, we now have over a year of observational data, and we have come to the conclusion that, without a doubt, independent redistricting commissions lead to better outcomes for voters than any which of the available alternatives,” Lozano said. .

For the record: This story has been updated to correct the fact that Governor Jerry Brown signed the bills creating independent redistricting commissions for Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

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