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.


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.


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.”


    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.’”


    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.


    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?