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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.”

    Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
    Under: redistricting | 8 Comments »

    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.

     

    Posted on Friday, January 27th, 2012
    Under: redistricting | 5 Comments »

    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.

    Posted on Thursday, January 26th, 2012
    Under: ballot measures, California State Senate, redistricting | No Comments »

    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…

    Posted on Friday, January 13th, 2012
    Under: redevelopment, redistricting, TWINC | No Comments »

    Pushback on ProPublica redistricting story

    As the California Republican Party continues to tout this week’s ProPublica article about Democrats influencing the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s work, there’s some pushback today from some of the state’s prominent political opinion writers.

    CalBuzz, the site run by Phil Trounstine – a former Mercury News editor, communications director for Gov. Gray Davis and San Jose State University pollster –and longtime San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Barbara News-Press editor Jerry Roberts, called the study “misleading at best, dishonest at worst and fatally flawed in any case.” From that article:

    In the course of their reporting, Calbuzz has learned, Pierce interviewed Eric McGhee of the Public Policy Institute of California, one of the state’s top non-partisan reapportionment experts, who explained to her that the gains forecast for Democrats represent a logical and expected result given a) demographic changes in the last decade and b) the criteria the commission was charged with using.

    McGhee even emailed Pierce an advance copy of a 45-page analysis of the commission plan he co-authored with Vladimir Kogan of UC San Diego, which is scheduled to be published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy in a few months. Among its conclusions: given the gerrymandered districts used for the last decade, “it seems unlikely that it is possible to draw any plan that increases competition among congressional seats without also advantaging the Democrats.”

    But when the ProPublica report published Wednesday – claiming that Democratic operatives had “managed to replicate the results of the smoke-filled rooms of old” (yes, they actually wrote that) – there was no mention of the detailed and comprehensive McGhee-Kogan research, nor even a reference to the facts, background and context on which it is based.

    The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters wrote that Democrats did play politics in trying to influence the commission, but that’s to be expected and Republicans merely are upset at having fallen asleep at the switch:

    While they concentrate on a couple of Democrats whose seats were protected by intervention of some clandestine front groups and, perhaps, the gullibility of commission members, they don’t mention the plan’s adverse effects on other Democrats, such as forcing a high-octane shootout looming between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in Los Angeles County.

    More importantly, the article doesn’t mention that the Democrats’ creation of “community of interest” front groups could be effective only because the 14-member commission, as chosen by a convoluted process, was hypersensitive to that approach.

    The Democratic members of the commission tended to be partisans, its Republicans tended to be of the go-along variety, and the supposed independents turned out to be mostly liberals inclined to draw districts that favor ethnic and cultural enclaves.

    That tendency – coupled with underlying demographic and voter registration trends – had the combined effect of not only protecting most incumbent Democrats but giving them a chance to make congressional gains.

    Posted on Friday, December 23rd, 2011
    Under: redistricting | 9 Comments »

    ProPublica Report: Dems ran covert mapping plan

    California’s congressional Democrats ran a secret effort earlier this year to manipulate the work of the independent citizen’s panel that drew the state’s new political districts, foiling the intent of reformers who sought to remove the redistricting process from the control of party bosses.

    As ProPublica reported today, Democrats met behind closed doors at the party’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, hired consultants, drew their ideal districts and presented maps to the panel through proxies who never disclosed their party ties or “public interest” groups created specifically for the purpose. In many cases, the panel responded by doing just what the Democrats wanted.

    The New York-based investigative journalism foundation ProPublica released its findings today from a months-long reconstruction of the Democrats’ stealth redistricting strategy, relying on internal memos, emails, interviews and map analysis.

    The success of the strategy has Democrats projecting they may pick up as many as seven congressional seats in 2012 under new district boundaries adopted last summer, far more than had been expected originally.

    Read ProPublica’s full report here.

    Read BANG news story on the report here.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
    Under: redistricting | 24 Comments »

    Supreme Court denies redistricting challenges

    The California Supreme Court today unanimously denied two pending petitions challengeing the validity of the state Senate and congressional redistricting maps created and certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

    The court also denied petitioners’ requests for an emergency stay of the certified maps. All seven justices participated in the court’s action.

    The Citizens Redistricting Commission on Aug. 15 certified to the Secretary of State all four required statewide electoral maps, covering the 40 State Senate and 80 Assembly districts, California’s 53 congressional districts, and the 4 districts of the California State Board of Equalization. The petitions for writs of mandate filed in the Supreme Court challenged only the state Senate and congressional districts.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
    Under: California State Senate, redistricting, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

    Lois Wolk hopes to represent Contra Costa cities

    State Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis, confirmed today that she’ll seek a second four-year term in the newly drawn 3rd State Senate District, including much of her current 5th District in Yolo and Solano Counties but grabbing Napa County, parts of Sonoma and several Contra Costa County communities.

    She issued a news release applauding the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s work, and saying it “correctly recognized these counties and cities have a great deal in common. It may not be perfect, but it makes sense. The new 3rd District is a natural fit with the communities I currently represent and the issues that have been my primary focus while in the Legislature. I would be honored to represent every one of these constituents, new and old.”

    Wolk gains the Contra Costa County communities of Crockett, Port Costa, Martinez, and Pleasant Hill; they used to be part of the 7th State Senate District, now represented by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

    “The only downside of the new plan is that I will no longer get to represent San Joaquin County, including the City of Stockton, where I have worked hard to build partnerships with local elected officials and constituents,” she said. “Those constituents can rest assured I will continue to represent them vigorously until they elect my replacement, who I hope will be Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, who has declared her intentions to seek the seat.”

    “I will also make efforts to get to know the new communities, meet everyone I can and listen to their issues,” Wolk said.

    Wolk also announced early endorsements from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; and state Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa.

    “It’s been my privilege to work with Senator Lois Wolk on Delta and statewide water issues,” Miller said in Wolk’s release. “I know when the people of northern Contra Costa County get to know Lois, they will join me in supporting her to represent us in the State Senate.”

    Wolk won her current 5th District seat in 2008 by defeating Republican nominee Greg Aghazarian, 65 percent to 35 percent; she now chairs the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. Earlier, she represented the 8th Assembly District from 2002 to 2008.

    I don’t see that any other person living within the bounds of the new 3rd District has filed a statement of intention to seek the seat next year, but of course, that could change.

    Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
    Under: 2012 State Senate election, California State Senate, Lois Wolk, redistricting | 3 Comments »

    Prosecutor, councilman to take on Pete Stark

    An East Bay prosecutor and city councilman is announcing today that he’ll challenge Rep. Pete Stark in next June’s primary for the newly drawn 15th Congressional District.

    Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Eric Swalwell, 30, was elected last year to the Dublin City Council with a term expiring in Nov. 2014; earlier, he’d served on the city’s planning commission since 2008.

    Stark’s current 13th District includes all of Alameda, Union City, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro and Fremont, as well as small parts of Oakland and Pleasanton. The new 15th District cuts out much of Fremont and all of Alameda, and adds in the unincorporated areas of Castro Valley, Ashland and Fairview as well as all of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon.

    “When I looked at the shift, where the district went, I thought it needed someone who could fit the district with new energy and new ideas, someone who could work together with Republicans, Democrats and independents to solve the problems,” he said Tuesday. “People want to start working again and want to know who’s going to work for them. I’m ready to pull up my sleeves and go to work for this new district.”

    Stark, 79, first was elected to Congress in 1972; he’s the fifth-most-senior Representative and the sixth-most-senior member of Congress overall. He announced his candidacy for a 21st term Aug. 2, saying he looks forward “to continuing to serve the people I represent today and gaining new constituents to the east. I’m committed to representing my new district with the same level of service, responsiveness and representation my constituents have come to rely on during my tenure in Congress.”

    Swalwell made it clear he’s not running against Stark in particular: “It’s a new district,” he said, and in tough economic times, a fresh candidate with a job-creation agenda has a blank slate on which to write his campaign.

    A Democrat, Swalwell is well aware that the June primary will be the first regular election (see comment #5, below) using the “top two” system, in which candidates of all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

    He said serving on the Dublin City Council so far “has been great, it’s given me an opportunity to work closely with the business community to see what they need… to see what policies attract businesses to town.” That ranges from attracting new businesses to trying to tie Dublin into the Livermore winery boom, he said, and so he’s holding his candidacy announcement today in a business park with many vacancies near the I-580/I-680 interchange.

    Swalwell graduated from Dublin High School in 1999; he holds a bachelor’s degree in government and politics and a law degree, both from the University of Maryland. While at Maryland, he served on the City of College Park City Council as its student representative, and from 2001-2002, he interned in the office of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, assisting with legislative research and constituent outreach and services.

    UPDATE @ 6:47 P.M.: More details, including Pete Stark’s comments and whether Ellen Corbett is a contender, in the article here.

    Posted on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
    Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, redistricting, U.S. House | 23 Comments »

    California GOP will challenge new senate maps

    The California Republican Party announced it will file a petition Tuesday and seek a voter referendum of the new state senate maps, and perhaps the congressional maps, adopted this morning by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

    Here is what GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said in a statement put out a few minutes ago:

    “A referendum will be filed with respect to the Senate lines and possibly the Congressional lines. The California Republican Party will wholeheartedly support those efforts when they come about. I have been saying for months that the CRC’s actions have been unfair if not unconstitutional, and that remains the case. The CRP will do whatever it can to give voters the chance to correct what the Commission failed to do.”

     The GOP must collect more than a half-million valid signatures within 90 days in order to qualify a measure for the June 2012 ballot. It won’t be cheap.

    Beccaro, of Lafayette, has been critical of the redistricting commission for months including its choice of a map-making consultant, political ties of one of its Democratic commissioners and timing of the release of pending documents.

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2011
    Under: redistricting | 1 Comment »