A former Republican congressman and four others filed suit Thursday with the California Supreme Court alleging that that state's newly drawn congressional districts are illegal and unconstitutional.
The suit by Mariposa Republican George Radanovich, who left Congress last year, asks the court to throw out the 53 new congressional boundaries and appoint a special master to draw new ones.
The legal challenge comes nearly one month after opponents of the congressional maps announced a referendum drive aimed at letting voters decide the fate of the new maps. That drive apparently has snagged.
California's congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts were drawn for the first time this year by an independent citizens commission, rather than by the Legislature, under terms of ballot initiatives passed in 2008 and 2010.
"California voters approved two initiatives designed to finally remove politics and back room deals from redistricting. Unfortunately, the Citizens Redistricting Commission failed miserably in that respect," Radanovich said in a written statement.
Specifically, Radanovich's suit targets three Los Angeles districts, claiming that lines were drawn to protect three incumbents in violation of federal law and the state constitution.
The commission failed to meet its obligation under the federal Voting Rights Act to ensure that one or two of those congressional districts had a majority of African American voters, the lawsuit contends.
"The only apparent reason for such neglect by the commission was to enable the three current incumbents to remain in office," Carlos Rodriguez, a GOP strategist, said in a statement announcing the suit.
In somewhat of a ripple effect, the failure to properly draw lines for those three Los Angeles congressional districts denied Latinos elsewhere in the county of one - perhaps two - additional Latino-majority districts, according to Rodriguez.
The suit also takes aim at Congressional District 47, which "begins at the port of Long Beach and then wanders far into central Orange County to absorb portions of Garden Grove and Westminster," the suit said. "This divides the Orange County Asian community."
Rodriguez could not be reached immediately Thursday for further comment. He announced plans Aug. 30 to launch a referendum drive against the congressional maps but has kept a low profile amid reports that the effort lacks adequate funding and has stalled.
A separate coalition of Republican Party interests, led by Sacramento-based political strategist David Gilliard, has started a referendum drive and filed suit against the state's 40 new state Senate districts.
Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the redistricting commission, had no immediate comment on the congressional suit.
Approval of new political districts required support from three of five Democrats on the redistricting commission, three of five Republicans, and three of four independent or minor party voters.
The commission consistently has said that its members are confident their maps will withstand any legal challenge.