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New legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization boundaries were tentatively approved Friday by California's Citizens Redistricting Commission, ending months of hearings, public comments and debate.

Final action will be taken Aug. 15 on the maps, which are expected to be used for next year's statewide races.

The 53-district congressional plan nearly was killed by Republicans, receiving no votes from GOP members Michael Ward and Jodie Filkins Webber. Three other Republicans on the panel gave the maps thumbs up.

The 14-member citizens commission consists of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, five apiece, with four independent or minor-party members. Map approvals require support from three members of each bloc.

Only Ward opposed the 80-district Assembly map and the four-district Board of Equalization map.

Ward, in comments before voting on congressional districts, said that he did not think the commission had met its charge to draw the fairest districts possible by using specified, ranked that ranged from compactness and contiguity to respect for city and county boundaries.

"In my opinion, the commission failed to fulfill its mandate to strictly apply the constitutional criteria, inconsistently applied race and community-of-interest criteria, and sought to diminish dissenting viewpoints," he said.

Added Ward: "After much deliberation, and quite frankly anguish, I am sad to find myself compelled to vote no on the fruits of our labor."

Other commissioners noted the various maps had widespread support within the multipartisan panel and that the process had been unselfish, deliberate, responsive, collegial, and a new benchmark in public participation.

"There is no secret as to how the commission drew the lines," said Commissioner Connie Galambos Malloy. "There has been a completely open and transparent process. Every step of the way, the commission followed our clear, ranked, voter-approved criteria."

Commissioner Stan Forbes said he was proud of the new maps and that the process "has shown that government can be by and for the people."

"Change in the status quo is hard," Forbes said of critics, "because there are lots of vested interests who liked it the way it was."

California's redistricting commission was created by passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 to strip legislators of authority to draw political districts. The panel's authority was expanded to include congressional districts last year.

Political analysts have said the maps are more likely to benefit Democrats than Republicans -- and potentially could give Democrats a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. There are differing views, however, on the numbers of seats that are at risk of switching party hands.

Statewide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2.3 million voters, with the former comprising 44 percent of California voters and the latter 31 percent. More than one of every five registered voters are independents or decline to state a party preference.

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said this week that his party is considering either filing a lawsuit or launching a referendum to fight some or all of the maps.

The commission also is bracing for other legal challenges. It has hired two high-powered law firms to defend the maps, and the state has set aside $1.5 million to bankroll litigation costs.

* Updated at 5:10 p.m. to add quotes of Commissioners Michael Ward and Connie Galambos Malloy.


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