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Bolstered by a new $400,000 donation from the California Republican Party, officials of a referendum campaign to overturn the state's newly drawn Senate districts say 400,000 voter signatures have been collected and a full-court-press has been launched for more.

"I'm confident that we're going to do it," political strategist David Gilliard, who is running the campaign, said of prospects for gathering the required 504,760 valid voter signatures by Nov. 14 to place the issue before voters next year.

Gilliard said that signature-gathering had slowed temporarily because campaign coffers were draining, but the California Republican Party's six-figure contribution last week cured the problem and "we were able to unleash our people back again."

The Republican-backed referendum drive targets maps that critics say are likely to give Democrats the two additional Senate seats needed for the party to gain a two-thirds majority, the margin needed to raise taxes or fees.

The campaign has a goal of collecting 700,000 voter signatures - roughly 100,000 for each of the next three weeks, Gilliard said.

Gilliard's group also is pushing a lawsuit challenging the new Senate districts as unconstitutional. Boundaries dilute Latino voting in parts of California and violate criteria established by voters in a 2008 ballot measure that created the state's redistricting commission, the suit contends.

A separate coalition is fighting the state's new congressional maps. Its referendum effort has stalled, but it continues to push a lawsuit - with former Mariposa Republican Congressman George Radanovich as a plaintiff - that challenges the legality and constitutionality of the 53 new congressional districts.

California revises its political districts each decade. The 14-member citizens commission that drew congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization maps this year consisted of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party members. Legislators drew the maps in decades past.


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