California's first-ever independent redistricting commission finished drawing 177 new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization maps late Sunday after a rare conflict over racial issues.
The new maps, which will be released to the public on Friday, are expected to generate a flurry of lawsuits and at least one referendum drive, all of which would, if successful, shift redistricting to the courts for final resolution before the 2012 elections.
Created by two ballot measures, the commission is doing a job that in the past had been done either by the Legislature or the courts. Overall, its districts - if finally adopted - are expected to give the state's dominant Democratic Party opportunities to gain two-thirds majorities in the Legislature and increase its control of the state's congressional delegation.
The 14-member commission - five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents - spent the entire weekend on final district-by-district reviews, making dozens of mostly minor changes that sometimes involved just a few people.
But it was a proposed major change - reconfiguring three congressional districts in Los Angeles County - that created the commission's only major blowup.
As proposed earlier, one of the three districts would have included almost all of the Los Angeles County coastline, plus Beverly Hills and other affluent sections west of downtown Los Angeles. The other two just to the east would have been most likely re-elected two of the county's three black congresswomen.
However, Michelle DiGuillo, an independent from Stockton, tearfully denounced the configuration as unfair to the region's residents and threatened to vote against the entire plan unless it was changed.
The commission staff drew up an alternative that reconfigured all three districts so that each had a stretch of coastline, but that drew sharp criticism - and more tears - from two other independents, both of whom are African American..
M. Andre Parvenu, who lives in the affected area, complained that the alternative plan would result in the loss of two of the county's three black congressional seats while Connie Galambos Malloy of Oakland shed tears of her own as she joined in the criticism.
The commission had also heard from several representatives of African American groups, including state NAACP chairwoman Alice Huffman, about the congressional plan and a proposed Board of Equalization plan they said would dilute black voting strength in Los Angeles. Jerome Horton, the Board of Equalization member who represents most of Los Angeles County, is black.
The commission kept the three Los Angeles congressional districts as originally drawn and later changed the Board of Equalization plan sharply. Sunday's presiding officer, San Diego Republican Libert Ontai, said, "I think this (Board of Equalization) change is going to please a lot of people."