The Citizens Redistricting Commission that resulted from the passage of Propositions 11 and 20 is close to completing their work. Yesterday they released a set of maps for Congress, State Senate, State Assembly and Board of Equalization that they are likely to vote in favor of putting out for official review later today.
To view the proposed maps please go to Meridian Pacific’s website at www.mpimaps.com FR friend Chandra Sharma has set up a wonderful website that allows all of us to see the districts, key cities, and past election outcomes.
The Commission is likely to spend a good portion of the today patting themselves on the back for a job well done. They certainly do deserve credit for spending as much time as they did on this project over the past eight months, and it does appear that their just is, well, just about done. However, the process was not a smooth one at all.
First, it is clear that some of the Commissioners focused on their own personal agendas. Why is it that San Joaquin County is whole in a Senate (SD 5) and Congressional District (SD 9)? That would be because Stockton was lucky enough to have a Commissioner that prioritized her own community at the expense of others. Rancho Cordova is with Death Valley as a result of this.
Second, the commission never really established a standard for the Voting Rights Act. They drew districts that were to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act but never took the time to establish a history of racially polarized voting in many of these areas. Further, the standard applied to Latinos was different than that applied to African Americans or Asians.
Finally, the Commission did not have an open process at all. They raised expectations by releasing a schedule. Then, after taking heat for the release of their first maps they cancelled the release of second and third draft maps. Most of the press ignored this. The lines that they will vote on today have been available to the public for less than 24 hours. That is not open – in fact it leads to columns like this one, appearing the day of their first vote on these lines, without substantive review of these new lines. There simply has not been time.
If you look on the Commission website you will find a list of the Public Record Act Requests that have been submitted. The Commission announced several weeks ago that the information answering those requests will be available on August 16th. That is the day after the commission finishes it’s work. Unacceptable.
Even the process used to pick this set of Commissioners has been called into serious question.
I will say that in terms of the way the commission did it’s work these past months, I am not prepared to issue a passing grade. Which leaves me fairly pessimistic about the final work product of the commission.
In the coming weeks we will have the chance to go over the maps in great detail to study the likely outcome of elections held under these maps. No matter what the election outcomes the process was not a good one and hopefully will be vastly improved ten years from now.