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A Republican-backed group seeking to place newly drawn state Senate districts before voters next year is asking the California Supreme Court to prepare for its referendum to qualify for the ballot.

The petition by Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR, comes about two weeks after the group submitted more than 711,000 referendum signatures. It needs 504,760 valid voter signatures to reach the ballot.

"We believe there's a very strong likelihood that this referendum will qualify for the ballot," spokesman Dave Gilliard said. "The court should understand that election deadlines are coming up and that it should start preparing for this to qualify."

Specifically, FAIR is asking the high court to shelve the newly drawn state Senate districts once its referendum qualifies for the ballot. To use the contested districts, pending a statewide vote, would gut the purpose of its signature-gathering campaign, the group contends.

Instead, FAIR suggests that the court use the state Senate districts in effect for elections between 2002 and 2010 or, as an alternative, to combine two newly drawn Assembly districts per Senate district for use in 2012.

FAIR's petition also asks the state Supreme Court to appoint a special master to advise it on redistricting, and to suspend the Dec. 30 starting date of a program allowing candidates to gather voter signatures in lieu of paying a filing fee.

Stan Forbes, current rotating chairman of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a 14-member panel that drew the state's new legislative and congressional maps, said he considers FAIR's petition a "disservice to the public and a significant waste of taxpayer money" to fight.

Forbes noted that the high court previously rejected FAIR's lawsuit challenging the new Senate districts as unconstitutional.

"The court has already ruled they are in compliance" with state law, he said.

Forbes also questioned whether FAIR's petitition drive collected enough valid voter signatures to reach the ballot.

Typically, about 30 percent of a referendum drive's signatures are disqualified for one reason or another, which would leave FAIR a little short of the required 504,760, according to Forbes.

"I think it's not clear at all that the referendum will qualify," he said.


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