The list of potential members of the state's new Citizens Redistricting Commission was pared down to 36 finalists Friday as legislative leaders exercised their secret vetoes -- and it includes an expert who devised two court-ordered redistricting plans and a former legislative budget analyst.
The four Democratic and Republican legislative leaders were empowered to knock off as many as 24 of the 60 semi-finalists without explanation or revealing who axed whom, similar to lawyers' preemptory challenges of potential jurors in a trial.
The 36 finalists -- 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and 12 either independents or minor party registrants -- represent a broad demographic and geographic swath of the state, with a third coming from coastal Southern California. Los Angeles County has the largest potential representation of any county with nine members.
Law professor Paul McKaskle was the chief consultant for the two Supreme Court redistricting plans and was on the list of 20 independents and minor party registrants that went to legislative leaders and survived the cut, as did William Hamm, who was once the Legislature's budget analyst and is now a private economic consultant.
Next Thursday, the state auditor's office will draw eight names from the 36 finalists at random. The eight must be three Democrats, three Republicans and two either independents or minor party registrants. Then those eight will select six more members from the remaining pool by the end of the year to complete the panel. The complex selection process began with nearly 31,000 applicants.
The 14-member commission must consist of five Democrats, five Republicans and four who are either independents or minor party registrants. It is supposed to be balanced by gender, ethnicity and region.
It will use 2010 census data to draw 80 Assembly districts, 40 Senate districts, four Board of Equalization districts and -- thanks to the passage of Proposition 20 -- new districts for California's congressional delegation. There are 53 congressional districts now, but that could change, up or down, after final census data are compiled.
It will take nine votes on the commission to pass any plan. The commission, created by 2008's Proposition 11, takes over the redistricting job from the Legislature and, in some years, from the courts. The Legislature did the job after the 1980 and 2000 censuses, but the state Supreme Court did it due to a political deadlock after the 1970 and 1990 censuses.
Widespread criticism of the last plan, adopted in 2001, as a bipartisan gerrymander meant to eliminate partisan competition for seats led to Proposition 11, which was sponsored by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a coalition of political reform groups. This month, voters not only expanded the commission's authority to congressional seats via Proposition 20 but defeated another measure, Proposition 27, that would have returned redistricting power to the Legislature.