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Rebuffed by the California Supreme Court, a former Republican congressman and four others filed suit this week in federal court to overturn the state's newly drawn congressional maps.

The lawsuit by Mariposa Republican George Radanovich, who left Congress in January, marks the latest of numerous attacks by GOP interests against districts drawn for the first time by an independent citizens commission.

Radanovich's federal suit contends that the panel violated federal voting-rights law and the U.S. Constitution by seeking to protect three African American incumbents in the drawing of three Los Angeles congressional districts.

Redistricting Commissioner Stan Forbes, the current rotating chairman, defended maps drawn by the 14-member panel created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008. The commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four voters not affiliated with either party.

"The commission carefully considered the drawing of each districts and our decisions were fully briefed by our Voting Rights Act counsel," Forbes said. "We expect our maps, once again, to withstand any legal challenges."

U.S. Reps. Karen Bass, Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson, all Democrats, are the incumbents whose districts are the lawsuit's focus.

Radanovich argues that federal law required the commission to draw one or two Los Angeles congressional districts with a majority of African American voters. Instead, it rejected dense packing in an attempt to protect the trio, he says.

"For political purposes of protecting the three incumbents, the commission failed to protect the rights of the African American and Latino communities," the former congressman said in a written statement.

Final maps preserved large black populations in the three Los Angeles congressional districts -- 28 percent to 35 percent -- but dispersed them enough to likely preserve at least two, perhaps all three of the African American seats, according to political analysts.

Other minority groups were hurt immediately by the decision, but it may backfire eventually on African Americans, too, by opening the door for members of other voting blocs to win those seats sometime in the next decade, the suit says.

African Americans comprise only 8.2 percent of Los Angeles County's voting-age population after a steady decline the past three decades, according to the lawsuit.

Radanovich is seeking to have the commission's congressional maps killed and new ones drawn by court-appointed special masters, not the citizens commission.

The state Supreme Court, without comment, decided last month not to hear Radanovich's suit challenging congressional maps.

The high court also turned thumbs down on litigation by a separate Republican group contesting state Senate maps. Hoping to let voters decide the fate of Senate maps, the group has submitted signatures to the state and is awaiting a final count to determine whether its referendum qualifies for next year's statewide ballot.


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