Redistricting measure headed to ballot

Voters will have another crack at political boundary redistricting in the November general election.

The state has certified an initiative for the Nov. 4 election sponsored by California Common Cause and supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former state controller Steve Westly that would strip state legislators of the authority to draw their own district lines and turn it over to an independent commission.

It’s the 11th initiative approved for the upcoming general election ballot and another 21 are either in circulation or awaiting signature verification. (Shall we start a betting pool on how many pages the ballot statement will consume before we’re all done?)

Here’s the Secretary of State’s press release issued a few minutes ago:

SACRAMENTO – Secretary of State Debra Bowen today certified the eleventh initiative for the November 4, 2008, General Election ballot. The measure would create a redistricting commission to draw new district lines for some elective offices.

The first 10 propositions to qualify for the November ballot were a high-speed rail bond; a measure relating to the treatment of farm animals; a children’s hospital bond; a parental notification for abortion measure; a measure involving the sentencing of nonviolent offenders; a measure regarding increased criminal penalties and public safety funding; a measure creating renewable energy generation requirements for utilities; a measure that would amend the state Constitution to define marriage as “between a man and a woman;” a measure involving victims’ rights in the criminal justice system; and a bond measure for alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy.

In order to qualify for the ballot, the redistricting measure needed 694,354 valid petition signatures, which is equal to 8% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2006 General Election. The initiative proponents submitted 1,180,889 signatures in an attempt to qualify the measure, and it qualified through the random sample signature check.

County elections officials have 30 working days to verify the validity of the signatures filed with their offices using a random sampling method. The state Elections Code requires elections officials to verify 500 signatures, or 3% of the number of signatures filed in their county, whichever is greater. Counties receiving fewer than 500 petition signatures are required to verify all the signatures filed in their offices.

A measure can qualify via random sampling, without further verification, if the sampling projects a number of valid signatures greater than 110% of the required number. This measure needed at least 763,790 projected valid signatures to qualify by random sampling, and it exceeded that threshold today with 779,291 projected valid signatures.

The Attorney General’s official title and summary of the initiative is as follows:

REDISTRICTING. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Creates 14-member redistricting commission responsible for drawing new district lines for State Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization districts. Requires State Auditor to randomly select commission members from voter applicant pool to create a commission with five members from each of the two largest political parties, and four members unaffiliated with either political party. Requires nine votes to approve final district maps. Establishes standards for drawing new lines,

including respecting the geographic integrity of neighborhoods and encouraging geographic compactness. Permits State Legislature to draw lines for congressional districts subject to these standards. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Probably no significant increase in state redistricting costs. (Initiative 07-0077.)

The proponents for this measure, Kathay Feng, Jeannine English, and David Fleming, can be reached at 3527 Mt. Diablo Boulevard #192, Lafayette, California 94549. No phone number was provided.

The last day to qualify a measure for the November General Election ballot is June 26.

For more information about how an initiative qualifies for the ballot in California, go to http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/initiative_guide.htm

To view this and other Secretary of State press releases, go to: http://www.sos.ca.gov/executive/press_releases/news_releases.htm

Lisa Vorderbrueggen