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Some critics of the independent commission that's being formed to redraw districts for state legislators and members of the Board of Equalization have questioned whether it would have enough knowledge of the arcane process to do the job.

The answer may depend on whether Paul McKaskle, one of the 60 finalists for the Citizens Redistricting Commission, survives the remainder of the selection process, which includes peremptory challenges by legislative leaders.

McKaskle, a long-time law professor, was chief counsel to the Supreme Court masters who were appointed after the 1970 and 1990 censuses to redraw legislative and congressional maps after redistricting plans stalled in the Legislature. In both cases, a Republican governor (Ronald Reagan and later Pete Wilson) and a Democratic Legislature were at loggerheads.

One of McKaskle's letters of recommendation, in fact, is from Eugene Lee, a veteran political science professor at UC-Berkeley who was the chief technician in both of those court-ordered redistricting plans.

Together, McKaskle and Lee created districts under which Democrats made major gains in the 1970s and Republicans increased their numbers in the 1990s. While both were subject to partisan carping at the time, redistricting scholars generally have concluded that neither plan was drawn to help either party and the results were largely determined by other factors.

McKaskle, a political independent, also has been a consultant on local government redistricting and has written extensively on the subject. But whether the Legislature's leadership would want to have such a recognized expert on the commission remains uncertain.


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