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Tauscher names GOP co-chair for redistricting push

Former East Bay Rep. Ellen Tauscher announced Tuesday that she’s bringing on a former colleague from the other side of the aisle to co-chair her effort to export California’s citizen-redistricting model to the rest of the nation.

Ellen TauscherTauscher, a Democrat formerly of Alamo who represented part of the East Bay from 1997 to 2009, said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will co-chair YouDrawTheLines2021, an organization she formed to take reapportionment power away from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions. She launched the effort in the wake of last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission – and by extension, California’s as well.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tauscher said she’s thrilled to share the group’s leadership with Davis. “Independent non-partisan redistricting commissions, like the one we have in California, create the opportunity for more competitive districts and for more moderates of both parties to get elected to Congress,” she said.

Davis said the effort is “critical to getting Congress working again.”

“Creating independent non-partisan citizen advisory commissions in even five or six states before the 2020 census could make all the difference to the make-up of Congress in the next decade,” Davis said. “Ellen and I will be reaching out to our former colleagues and like-minded state elected officials of both parties in these key states to put the wheels in motion to get this done over the next five years.”

The project will focus on passing ballot initiatives in key states over the next three election cycles to approve the formation of independent, non-partisan citizen redistricting commissions based on California’s model that was passed in 2008.

Tauscher left her House seat in 2009 to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs – serving under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – until February 2012, and then served as Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense until August 2012. She now splits her time between San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

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Lofgren proposes citizen redistricting in all states

A Bay Area congresswoman is helping to lead a charge to require all states to adopt the kind of independent redistricting commission that California has, as a means of halting partisan gerrymandering.

It’s a bold move, consider the U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether or not such commissions are constitutional – an Arizona case that could doom California’s commission too. At the same time, it’s a largely symbolic move, as there’s no way that the Republicans who run Congress will let this happen; it’s an existential threat to their House majority.

But a pack of Democrats led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and Donna Edwards, D-Md., say their Redistricting Reform Act of 2015 will reform the nation’s patchwork redistricting system.

The bill would require states to establish independent, multi-party citizen redistricting commissions to draw open, transparent statewide district maps after each U.S. Census. Most states still let state lawmakers draw the lines, as California did until voters approved Prop. 11 of 2008 and Prop. 20 of 2010 to give state and federal redistricting authority to the new, independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

“The issue of redistricting reform is one that is central to our democracy, and now that the matter is before the U.S. Supreme Court, it has never been more important,” Lofgren said in a news release. “What we see now is too often a troubling reality in which politicians choose their voters instead of voters picking their elected officials. The Redistricting Reform Act fixes this by creating a more transparent electoral process to hold politicians accountable to the people they represent.”

The bill’s original cosponsors include Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. Supporters include Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza.

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Report: Redistricting panel did well, can do better

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission generally succeeded in its task of drawing fair new legislative lines, according to a new review of its work – but the state can do even better in the future.

The report, “When the People Draw the Lines,” by Cal State Los Angeles researcher Raphael Sonenshein, was commissioned by the League of Women Voters of California in partnership with the James Irvine Foundation. It praises the 14-member panel’s work, but says that in the future, such commissions should start much earlier and have better structural support for their work in order to assure success.

“Given the newness and the difficulty of this process, the redistricting process as designed was surprisingly successful,” Sonenshein, who directs the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs, said this morning on a conference call with reporters.

He said there was great public interest in selecting the commissioners, which led to a balanced and capable panel that took more public input “than anyone could’ve possibly imagined” in order to produce maps that survived court challenges and ended up well-regarded by the public.

“Clearly the California commission can be a model for other states interested in reforming their redistricting,” said Chris Carson, the League’s program director for campaign finance and redistricting.

But Sonenshein’s report makes some suggestions for California’s next go-round, or for other states that choose to adopt similar systems, including:

  • Starting at least five months earlier so there’s more time for the commission to do its work
  • Spending more time and money on training the commissioners, and for their information-gathering and deliberations.
  • Collecting demographic and geographic data earlier, before public input begins
  • Including in the commission’s budget funding for a consultant whose main task is to collect and analyze the massive amounts of public input.
  • Reducing commissioner travel costs by conducting some hearings using distance technology, and in some cases, not requiring all commissioners to attend.
  • Commission members Michelle DiGuilio and Stanley Forbes were on the conference call, too.

    “We were all true believers in what we were doing,” Forbes said. “We had no idea that we would get the level of public participation that we did, which was very gratifying.”

    But Forbes agreed the commission should start its work earlier, have more information earlier in the process, and remain vigilant of stepped-up partisan efforts to manipulate the process. “We saw some effort this time, I don’t think it had much success.”

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    Court rejects GOP request to stay state Senate maps

    The California Supreme Court let stand the use of newly drawn Senate district maps in 2012 crafted by the independent redistricting commission even though voters may have the chance to reject them in November.

    After reviewing the pros and cons, the justices concluded in a ruling released a few minutes ago that the redistricting commission’s “certified map is clearly the most appropriate map to be used in the 2012 state Senate elections even if the proposed referendum qualifies for the ballot.”

    Read the full ruling here.

    The California Republican Party had asked the courts to intervene, arguing that redistricting legislation required a stay if a ballot measure challenging the boundaries was likely to qualify for the ballot. The Republicans’ referendum is in the hands of election clerks, who are verifying signatures. But the outcome won’t be known until Feb. 24, well after the candidate filing period opens Feb. 13.

     

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    Supreme Court to rule Friday on redistricting suit

    The California Supreme Court will issue its written opinion at 10 a.m. tomorrow on a challenge to last year’s state Senate redistricting, it announced minutes ago.

    That challenge, filed in early December, asks the court to decide whether the old or new state Senate district map should be used for this year’s elections if a proposed referendum seeking to overturn that map qualifies for the ballot.

    The court is grappling with what legal standard or test it should apply in determining whether a referendum is “likely to qualify” under a state constitution section dealing with when plaintiffs can seek relief from the judiciary. It also must decide whether it has the authority to hear such a petition before the referendum has qualified for the ballot, or even before anyone can deem it likely to qualify.

    The parties made their oral arguments at a 75-minute hearing Jan. 10.

    A Republican-backed group called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting has gathered signatures to place the challenge referendum on the ballot, but those signatures won’t be tallied until late February – halfway through the nominating period for state Senate races.

    The California Citizens Redistricting Commission contends the new map it drew should be used immediately because that’s was the will of the voters and because it meets federal standards. FAIR contends using the new map wouldn’t be fair to voters who are exercising their legal right to challenge it.

    ADDITION FROM LISA V:

    For folks who want to watch the count tally of the GOP’s ballot initiative that challenges the state Senate maps, click here.

    Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a number in red. That’s how many valid signatures have been counted so far. They need to reach 504,760 to make it onto the November ballot.

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    Redevelopment, redistricting on TWINC tonight

    Watch KQED “This Week in Northern California”  tonight when I and my colleague Josh Richman and KCBS reporter Barbara Taylor talk about redevelopment, redistricting and the woes of SF Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

    The show airs live at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 9 in most of Contra Costa County.

    News Panel: The latest on the Citizens Redistricting Commission, Oakland layoffs, and Ross Mirkarimi

    The California Supreme Court considers which Senate maps to use in the fight over the new lines drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The City of Oakland will send layoff notices to hundreds of city workers to make up for the loss of redevelopment funds. There are calls for the resignation of newly-sworn in San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who may face domestic violence charges.

    UPDATE @ 11:10 A.M. SATURDAY: And here we are…