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A Republican-backed referendum campaign to overturn the state's new Senate districts is vowing to submit more than 700,000 signatures Thursday to place the issue before voters next November.

The drive needs 504,760 valid voter signatures and has about 650,000 now, with a last-minute push likely to boost that total to 725,000, perhaps 750,000 said David Gilliard, a political strategist leading the drive.

A sizable cushion of signatures is needed in any referendum drive to account for those disqualified because they are duplicates, or because the voter is not currently registered, or for various other reasons.

"We' re going to have, I think, enough room for our validity rate to be where it needs to be," Gilliard said. "So we're very happy."

The GOP-led campaign targets Senate 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.

California's legislative and congressional districts were drawn for the first time ever this year by a 14-member citizens commission, not by lawmakers. The panel was created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008.

Opponents of the new Senate maps contend that Latino voting clout would be diluted in parts of the state and that the commission violated map-drawing criteria established by voters.

Gilliard dismissed rumors that the drive was falling short of its signature-gathering mark with a Nov. 13 deadline looming to submit signatures to county elections offices.

Volunteers were asked to turn out in force throughout the weekend, gathering signatures, but that's typical in the final days of a campaign, he said.

"Certainly not," Gilliard said of rumors that the drive is struggling.

The campaign is bankrolled primarily by the California Republican Party and various current or former state senators.

Separately, the same coalition of opponents is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to reject the Senate maps as an unconstitutional dilution of Latino voting power. The group failed to persuade the state Supreme Court to act.


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