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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 »

    A few more thoughts on Pete Stark’s defeat

    We’ve posted my story for tomorrow’s print editions on how Rep. Pete Stark’s defeat marks both the end of an era and, probably, the start of another Democrat-on-Democrat race for the 15th Congressional District in 2014. Here’s a few final thoughts for which there wasn’t room in that story, but which seem noteworthy nonetheless.

    This was a contest for which our editors wanted election-night photographs, but Stark’s campaign refused to tell us Monday and Tuesday where he would be Tuesday night; I still don’t know where he watched the returns.

    I take this as a sign that his campaign staff knew there was a pretty good chance he would lose. I’d bet their final internal polling showed a tight race, perhaps with Stark holding a small lead, but with many last-minute “undecided” voters likely to break against the incumbent. Apparently they did.

    San Jose State University political scientist Larry Gerston said Stark’s “quirky political behavior and a dramatically changed district” fueled his downfall at least as much as the top-two primary system. That is, Stark’s loss necessarily doesn’t mark a sea change in how future campaigns will be run, and other Bay Area House Democrats need not look over their shoulders.

    “This was the exception to the rule – I don’t know any other elected official in Congress who had the reputation Stark had,” Gerston said. “It’s a shame. He’s a man who at one time had an impeccable reputation, a liberal icon. This is more a story of ‘his time had come.’”

    Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
    Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

    GOP drops state senate line campaign; mappers still need ‘yes’ vote

    With great hullabaloo, Republicans qualified a ballot measure that challenges  California’s newly drawn state senate boundaries for the Nov. 6 ballot. But now, they have abandoned the campaign.

    That leaves the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission with an unenviable task: Persuading voters to vote  ”yes” on Proposition 40 and confirm the state senate districts as the commission drew them in 2011.

    The Reeps said the commission favored Democrats during the mapping process although they have lost on every legal front.

    Here’s what the Redistricting Commission put out on the subject:

    Citizens Redistricting Commission

    Proponents of Prop 40 Withdraw Support from Referendum

    Challenging CRC Senate Maps

    Sacramento, CA (July 13, 2012) –

    The proponents of Proposition 40 have announced that they have abandoned their campaign and will not be seeking “NO” votes to overturn the certified Senate District maps created by the Commission in 2011.

    However, as the proposition is still on the ballot, the majority of Californians will still need to vote “YES” to confirm the certified maps already in use. The Senate maps certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission on August 15, 2011, have survived a number of legal challenges. In its 7-0 decision earlier this year, the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the maps and ordered their use in the June and November elections, stating, “…not only do the Commission-certified Senate districts appear to comply with all of the constitutionally mandated criteria set forth in California Constitution, article XXI, the Commission-certified Senate districts also are a product of what generally appears to have been an open, transparent and nonpartisan redistricting process as called for by the current provisions of article XXI.” The U.S. Department of Justice’s pre-clearance of the Commission’s maps also found them in compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Act in Section 5 counties. Despite these endorsements, should Prop 40 receive a majority of “NO” votes, the Senate maps will need to be redrawn at a significant cost to taxpayers.

    The Citizens Redistricting Commission, created when voters passed the “Voters First Act” in 2008 to bring an unprecedented level of transparency and nonpartisanship to the redistricting process, was the first independent body in history to draw California’s voting districts.

    “Californians deserve the certainty of knowing their vote will be final” said Commission Vice Chair Jeanne Raya. “Fortunately, the Commission conducted meetings in a very open and transparent manner. Video, transcripts, and handouts are available by visiting www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov. We encourage all interested parties to learn about the process used to draw the certified maps so they can make an informed decision in November.”

    More information on the 2011 redistricting process and the subsequent certified maps can be found at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

    Posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012
    Under: 2012 presidential election | 4 Comments »

    Fundraising, voter reg look good for McNerney

    Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – who’s running in the newly drawn 9th Congressional Districtraised $250,974 and spent $86,847.58 in the fourth quarter, finishing 2011 with $780,339.54 cash on hand and no debts.

    Republican challenger Ricky Gill, 24, of Lodi – whom the National Republican Congressional Committee in August named a “Young Gun” for his aggressive organizing and fundraising – had gotten off to a hot start last year, raising more than $429,030 in the second quarter and more than $225,000 in the third quarter.

    But Gill’s pace continued to slow in the fourth quarter: He raised a net of $124,188.65, loaned his campaign another $67,460.97 (bringing his self-financing total so far to almost $143,000), and spent a net of $1,910.14. He finished 2011 with $837,617.67 cash on hand but $142,839.73 in outstanding debts – a net bankroll of $694,777.94.

    And new voter registration data released today by the Secretary of State’s office shows the new 9th District is 44.6 percent Democrat to 35.8 percent Republican; that’s an edge McNerney didn’t have in 2010 when seeking re-election in his old 11th Congressional District, which was 39.3 percent Republican to 39.0 percent Democrat.

    Is the Young Gun getting outgunned?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
    Under: 2012 Congressional Election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, voter registration | 4 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 »

    Sandre Swanson drops 2012 state Senate bid

    Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has abandoned his challenge to fellow Democrat state Sen. Loni Hancock.

    “I finally concluded that, setting all misunderstandings aside, that it’s the best interests of our community not to have a major Democrat-on-Democrat campaign when we’re trying to win a two-thirds majority in the Senate,” Swanson, D-Alameda, said a few minutes ago. “It’s much better for our meager resources to be used in trying to get a two-thirds majority.”

    Swanson said this past weekend’s pre-endorsement conference, in which local Democrats overwhelmingly chose Hancock, D-Berkeley, over him, “really didn’t” affect his decision; incumbents who represent the party’s values almost always win such votes, he said. And he acknowledged, as he has in the past, that he and Hancock agree on most issues.

    Swanson, who’ll be term-limited out of the Assembly at this year’s end, had jumped into the race after redistricting confirmed he would be eligible, even though he’d initially said he wouldn’t run against his longtime ally. Senate Democrats quickly rolled out their support for Hancock.

    Now he’s endorsing her for 2012, and she – in a news release issued by Senate Democrats late this afternoon – is endorsing him to succeed her in 2016. Read that release in its entirety, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Loni Hancock, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

    Milpitas’ McHugh eyes run vs. Wieckowski in AD25

    Milpitas Vice Mayor Pete McHugh confirmed this afternoon that he’s considering running against Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, in the newly drawn 25th Assembly District.

    Pete McHugh“I’ve got a lot of experience in local government and I would like to see if I can make a positive difference at the state level, and possibly try to solve the problems by something other than dumping off state responsibilities on local counties and cities,” McHugh, also a Democrat, said today. “However, he is an incumbent, and as I understand it the powers that be – which would be labor and the Democratic Party – would like to keep their players intact. So I am still looking at it; it’s getting late, and I will be making a decision within the next three to four weeks.”

    McHugh, 69, was elected to his latest Milpitas City Council term in 2008. He served three terms on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, winning elections in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Before that, he’d been on the Milpitas City Council since 1976, and in 1978 became the city’s first elected mayor.

    As a former Fremont councilman, Wieckowski’s political power base is in that city. But redistricting split the city and the new 25th District, in which he resides, now extends further south so that parts of Santa Clara County – including parts McHugh has represented as a councilman or supervisor for decades – now make up most of the electorate.

    After spending some time testing the waters, McHugh believes there’s support for him to run “but I want to be convinced that there is even more support out there. Challenging an incumbent is not an easy task, even in these days when people are less than enchanted with their federal and state representatives. I want to see if I can raise an adequate amount of money; ‘adequate’ will be defined later by me. It will be a challenge, there’s no question.”

    Wieckowski, 56, had just short of $50,000 in his campaign’s account as of June 30, but late contribution reports show he pulled in $15,600 in the last few days of 2011.

    McHugh said local labor officials with whom he’s been speaking have subsequently been called by Wieckowski and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, inquiring about McHugh’s plans. McHugh said he finally talked to Wieckowski directly.

    “He asked why would I run against him, and I said I’m not running against him, I might be running for the position to see if people want to give me a chance to bring some solutions up there,” McHugh said, especially solutions that don’t involve stripping local governments of funding as the state is now doing with redevelopment money. “It’d be wonderful to have a chance to be in that arena and take on the lions – or maybe give them something to chew on.”

    UPDATE @ 5:28 P.M.: Wieckowski spokesman Jeff Barbosa said his boss is traveling today and can’t be reached.

    “With the changes in redistricting this is not a big surprise. Bob has a lot of respect for Vice Mayor McHugh, but he is also confident that he will be re-elected to the Assembly,” Barbosa said.

    “He currently represents Milpitas and a part of San Jose. He has worked hard on issues that are important to the region, including BART to San Jose and the clean technology sector. He has reached out to Silicon Valley and small businesses to create policies that will keep the Valley a leader in innovation,” Barbosa continued. “The Assemblymember has already earned the endorsements of the California Professional Firefighters, CNA, the CHP and California School Employees Association, to name just a few. Several of his Santa Clara County Assembly colleagues have endorsed him, along with San Jose elected officials. He believes he is well-prepared to represent the 25th District.”

    Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012
    Under: 2012 Assembly election, Assembly, Bob Wieckowski | 6 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 »

    Union City mayor ditched Dems for Assembly bid

    Longtime Democrat Mark Green is hoping to stand out from the crowd seeking the newly drawn 20th Assembly District seat by running as an independent.

    Actually, his party affiliation died a while ago without so much as a whimper. Green, Union City’s mayor since 1993, ditched the Dems in November 2010 – five months after placing third in the nonpartisan Alameda County District 2 supervisor race later won by Nadia Lockyer – according to the county Registrar of Voters.

    Mark GreenRunning as an independent “gives me an opportunity to help end the plague of polarizing party politics in Sacramento, and for the first time, this is an open primary election for Assembly, which means that voters are able to vote for ANY candidate, regardless of party affiliation,” Green, 58, wrote in a Dec. 30 fundraising letter.

    After rattling off some of his achievements and service on various boards and authorities, Green wrote, “I will be a strong voice for non-partisan decision-making, which I believe is the way to bring about positive change to the toxic environment in our State government.”

    The district, as recently redrawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission, will include Hayward, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Fairview, Ashland, Union City, the upper half of Fremont, and Sunol. It’s northern half, formerly part of 18th District, is currently represented by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, who’ll be term-limited out of office this year. The southern half, now part of the 20th District, is represented by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Wieckowski’s home falls in the newly drawn 25th District, which includes Fremont’s southern half as well as Milpitas, Santa Clara and part of San Jose.

    You’ve gotta wonder whether Green felt the ballot was getting too crowded with all those “Ds” for him to stand out. Democrats Bill Quirk, 66, a Hayward councilman; Dr. Jennifer Ong, 42, a Hayward resident who practices optometry in Alameda; and Sarabjit Cheema, 52, a New Haven Unified School District board member, are all running. So is Republican Adnan Shahab, 33, of Fremont, whom Wieckowski defeated in 2010.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
    Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Mary Hayashi | 8 Comments »