Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

February 28, 2014
Tim Draper puts $750K behind effort to split California six ways


The Silicon Valley investor proposing to carve California into six states has parked a chunk of his money behind the nascent effort.

Tim Draper, a Republican venture capitalist, donated $750,000 to his own cause, state records show.

The idea of secession is nothing new given the size, population and diversity of California. There have been dozens of proposals to split the state in various fashions - from east to west, north to south, and any number of other ways.

Draper's Six Californias include a northern state of Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.

At a news conference Monday, Draper insisted his proposal was no stunt, but said he has not decided whether to shoot for the November ballot or aim to qualify the initiative for 2016. He previously spent $20 million on an unsuccessful school voucher measure in 2000.

In his latest initiative, Draper argues political representation of the state's diverse population and economies has rendered it "nearly ungovernable."

What's more, vast parts are poorly served by a representative government "dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically," he wrote in the summary.

Draper must collect 807,615 signatures by July 18. If approved by voters, the proposal would then need an OK from Congress.

PHOTO: Image from, a website for the effort proposing to split California into six states.

December 20, 2013
Tim Draper proposes splitting California into six states

sixstates.jpgSecessionists in California's rural, northernmost reaches may have found a kindred spirit in the Bay Area.

Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is proposing to split California into six states, according to an initiative filing received by the state Friday.

He'd let the northern counties have their state of Jefferson, while adding North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.

Draper did not immediately return a telephone call for comment Friday, and the website Six Californias offers little information about his idea.

The website TechCrunch quoted Draper as saying a divided state would receive improved representation in the U.S. Senate while allowing each new state to "start fresh" with government.

That may be particularly appealing to a Republican like Draper living in what is now one large, increasingly Democratic state.

Draper's proposal comes after supervisors in Siskiyou and Modoc passed declarations this fall supporting withdrawal from California. The movement's prospects are dim. Even if Draper could get a ballot measure passed, redrawing state lines would require one other Herculean step: an act of Congress.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:10 p.m. to reflect the filing of the proposed initiative.

PHOTO: Image from, a website proposing to split California into six states

February 8, 2013
National Journal charts rise, fall of Berman-Waxman machine

howardberman.jpgWhen Howard Berman lost the most expensive congressional race in the country last year - falling to fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman after the two were thrown together in the same district - it marked the end of a fabled Southern California political machine.

Berman and Rep. Henry Waxman, along with Berman's campaign/redistricting consultant brother, Michael, had been major factors in regional and statewide politics for decades, making or breaking countless political careers.

The rise and fall of the Berman-Waxman machine is chronicled in a lengthy article in the National Journal.

Shane Goldmacher, a former Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times Capitol reporter, charts how the organization got its start in campus politics before Waxman and Howard Berman moved to the Legislature and then to Congress, becoming major forces in domestic and foreign policy.

October 25, 2012
California redistricting may have blocked Dem hopes for majority

When California's new independent redistricting commission unveiled its maps for 173 legislative and congressional districts last year, Republicans were dismayed.

That dismay turned to anger upon publication of an article describing a clandestine campaign by Democratic political operatives to affect the makeup of the commission and its decisions, and public claims by Democratic leaders that they might pick up as many as eight more congressional seats in California as they sought to reclaim control of Congress.

Those expectations have been throttled back to a possible gain of two or three seats in California. The consensus among political odds-makers now is that Democrats have no chance of retaking Congress this year, in part because they can't count on big gains in California's 53-member delegation.

Those lowered expectations are confirmed in a new study by the liberal Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law of the nationwide impacts of redistricting. Its report implies that California's independent redistricting, in fact, may have doomed the Democrats' chances.

August 11, 2012
GOP turning 180 degrees to oppose its redistricting referendum

BURBANK - The California Republican Party and its officehiolders spent heavily to qualify a referendum that would overturn the new state Senate maps drawn by an independent state commission.

The referendum qualified and is Proposition 40 on the November ballot. But the state GOP convention is poised to do a 180-degree turn and urge voters to uphold the Senate districts that it had strenuously opposed.

The party's invitiatives committee voted unanimously for that position Saturday after hearing pleas from the Senate's GOP leader, Bob Huff, and Sen. Mimi Walters. The full convention will vote on Sunday.

Huff and Walters told the committee that the referendum was pushed not so much to get voters to overturn the new districts, but as the basis for a plea to the state Supreme Court to use the previous districts for the 2012 elections.

Ordinarily, something being challenged by referendum is held in abeyance until voters have spoken, but the court declared that even though the referendum had qualified, the commission's new districts would still be used for the 2012 elections. The ruling relied on a 30-year-old Supreme Court decision on another Republican-backed referendum on redistricting.

Republicans have feared that they could lose two of their 15 Senate seats this year, thus giving Democrats a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature's 40-member upper house and enabling them to pass tax increase bills without GOP support.

Huff, however, told the committee that he now believes Repblicans can eke out 14 seats, thus denying Democrats a two-thirds majority, and under the new districts could pick up a seat or two in 2014. Therefore, he now wants the referendum to fail.

Adding more confusion to the situation, the voting rules governing a referendum are different from those of other ballot measures. Huff now wants a "yes" vote on Proposition 40 to affirm the commission's new districts and reject the challenge that the GOP had once bankrolled.

The committee also voted to recommend party support for Proposition 31, a measure sponsored by California Forward to revise the state's budget procedures, with the most controversial provision being a "pay-go" requirement affecting any new spending or tax cut with an impact of $25 million or more.

"Pay-go" would require that such changes include offsetting revenue increases or spending cuts to neutralize their fiscal effects. Unions strongly oppose the concept, seeing it as a spending limit, and some conservatives also oppose it because it would make tax cuts less likely.

Updated at 4:51 p.m. to include Proposition 31 recommendation.

July 31, 2012
Merced County released from Voting Rights Act scrutiny

Merced County, one of four California counties in which election practices have been under federal Voting Rights Act scrutiny, has apparently won its years-long battle to escape federal oversight.

Merced has spent at least $1 million on legal fees and other costs of its campaign to persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to release it from VRA oversight and as notified Monday that it had succeeded, the
Merced Sun-Star reports.

The Justice Department decision must be ratified by the federal court for the District of Columbia after a hearing, but county officials expect that to be just a formality.

June 12, 2012
Michael Ward tops redistricting commission in per diem pay

It was an honor system: California's redistricting commissioners received $300 for each day they reported working, often from home.

The result was that some commissioners were paid far more than others in the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts, records show.

Commissioner Michael Ward received the most compensation for time served, $68,400 in per diem, while Commissioner Maria Blanco pocketed the least, $35,100, records show.

The disparity between Ward and Blanco represents 111 more days in which the former reported that he had conducted commission business between late 2010 and this month. The panel is scheduled to shut down July 1.

For six of the first seven months in 2011, Ward reported averaging more than five days per week on commission business. In each of his two busiest months, he reported working 28 days and receiving $8,400 in per diem each month.

Ward, a practicing chiropractor when named to the panel, said he was burning the midnight oil studying redistricting publications and handling paperwork required of commissioners in the first few months of its existence.

"My knowledge base, at the start, was very low," Ward said. "Those first few months, I was getting four or five hours sleep, reading and studying like crazy. That's what was required, just to be competent."

May 25, 2012
No party preference? California turnout effort urges you to vote

no party preference.JPGThe Independent Voter Project, the group that wrote the measure that led to the top-two primary, is sending fliers and using social media to urge people with no party preference to vote in the June 5 primary.

One flier pictures two men smoking cigars and says, "Political bosses made their choices" and "you were not involved." It adds, "This time you're invited...the new open primary puts you in charge."

The flier was sent only to people who listed "none" as their party preference when they registered to vote. It was sent to about 250,000 people, said Steve Peace, a former state legislator and chair of the Independent Voter Project.

"Our core message is for independent voters to know they can vote for candidates," Peace said. "They're not used to being able to vote in June."

April 16, 2012
Bill proposes changes for California's new redistricting process

Now that California's legislative and congressional districts have been drawn for the first time ever by an independent citizens commission, the 14-member panel is recommending ways to smooth the process in years to come.

The commission's recommendations are contained in gut-and-amended legislation, Senate Bill 1096, proposed by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

The redistricting commission, created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, drew Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and state congressional districts last year that will be used in this year's statewide election.

By law, the panel consisted of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters. Three votes from each bloc were required to pass new district maps.

Proposed changes have bipartisan support and focus on timing and technical issues, including:

• Requiring the state auditor's office, not the secretary of state's office, to provide support functions when a new redistricting commission is formed every 10 years, until it hires staff and becomes fully functional.

• Revising deadlines to provide more than four additional months to select commission members.

• Requiring that only veteran auditors employed by the Bureau of State Audits can be chosen, by random drawing, to serve on a three-member panel that screens redistricting commission applicants and helps to create a pool of finalists.

• Mandating that the commission publicly display its first preliminary statewide maps no later than July 1 of the year it plans to vote on them. The public would have 14 days to comment on those initial maps, then seven days for any other preliminary maps and three days for final statewide maps

• Specifying that any bill proposing legislative amendments to the redistricting process be in print for 12 days, rather than 10. It would prohibit lawmakers from altering the redistricting process in any year ending in 9, expanding upon current law, which bans procedural changes in years ending in 0 or 1.

February 25, 2012
Senate GOP leader: caucus unlikely to fund redistricting referendum

Don't expect members of the Senate Republican Caucus to write big checks to back the referendum of the district lines they fought to qualify for the ballot.

Senate GOP leader Bob Huff said today that the caucus probably won't finance the November campaign asking voters to reject the maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

"We have seats to defend. That's a higher priority," the Diamond Bar Republican said.

Senate Republicans, who are expected to lose seats under the new maps, were the major force behind the effort to qualify the referendum, which was certified for the ballot yesterday. The caucus and the state GOP had poured millions into qualifying the measure in hopes that the state Supreme Court would rule that new maps should be drawn in time for 2012 if the effort was headed towards the ballot.

But with the Supreme Court's ruling that the current districts should be used for this year's elections, questions have emerged about whether anyone will step up to fund the measure in the November election. California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro would not commit to providing money to the campaign during a Friday press conference to open the state party convention in Burlingame.

"What we're going to do is look at our resources, look at the issues in front of us, like the spending cap, and over the next six months, we are going to decide on exactly how far we should push each individual thing we're facing," he said.

February 24, 2012
California Senate maps will go before voters in November

A Republican-backed referendum to overthrow California's newly drawn Senate districts qualified Friday for the November statewide ballot.

The secretary of state's office announced that 511,457 of the 711,307 referendum signatures submitted by the group were those of registered voters, more than the 504,760 needed to qualify.

Because legislative primary elections will be held before November ballots are cast, however, the Supreme Court ruled last month that the contested Senate districts will be used in this year's balloting.

Twenty of the Senate's 40 districts are up for grabs this year in districts drawn by an independent citizens commission consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters.

Republican leaders contend that the new districts give Democrats a good chance of capturing the two seats necessary to gain a two-thirds supermajority, the margin needed to approve tax or fee increases in that house.

Political analysts of both parties say the lines are not likely to result in a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, so Republicans conceivably could block tax increases there and keep them from reaching the governor's desk.

Nonetheless, a Democratic supermajority in the upper house would significantly increase that party's leverage in the Legislature.

February 10, 2012
Judge dismisses last lawsuit challenging California districts

A federal judge has dismissed the last remaining lawsuit challenging California political districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson concluded Thursday that he had no jurisdiction because the California Supreme Court previously rejected arguments made in the suit by a former Republican congressman and four others.

Mariposa Republican George Radanovich, who left Congress last year, was challenging the state's newly drawn congressional maps.

Radanovich contends that the redistricting commission violated federal voting rights law and the U.S. Constitution by seeking to protect three African American incumbents in the drawing of three congressional districts.

The state Supreme Court rejected similar arguments in October, without comment.

Jeanne Raya, current chairwoman of the redistricting commission, said that Wilson's action protects the panel's work against "baseless partisan attacks" and demonstrates that its districts were fair and complied with state law.

The 14-member redistricting commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party members. Map approvals required support from at least three members of each bloc.

Dismissal of the federal suit ensures that the redistricting commission's legislative and congressional districts will be used in this year's elections. Signatures have been filed in a referendum drive aimed at overturning the Senate maps for future state elections.

January 27, 2012
Read the California Supreme Court redistricting decision


January 27, 2012
California Supreme Court denies challenge of Senate maps

The California Supreme Court ruled today that state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission will be used in this year's elections, despite a pending referendum to overturn them.

In a 73-page decision, justices evaluated several proposed alternative maps and concluded that the Senate lines drawn by the 14-member commission were the most appropriate and least disruptive to this year's elections.

Republican State Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, a leader of the referendum drive, blasted the ruling as "shortsighted and disrespectful" of California voters who signed petitions and are awaiting the opportunity to vote on the commission's Senate maps. She characterized the decision as a throwback to a flawed, politically based precedent established by former Chief Justice Rose Bird.

"They kind of gutted the whole idea behind the referendum process," said Dave Gilliard, another leader of the drive to kill the Senate maps.

Peter Yao, current chairman of the commission, countered that use of the commission maps is important to maintain electoral stability and that the challenge is based on "partisan self interest" that has "cost precious taxpayer dollars to defend."

The issue came before the high court after a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, filed more than 711,000 signatures with county elections offices in a referendum to overturn Senate maps drawn by a 14-member citizens commission.

Californians will decide the fate of the newly drawn Senate districts in November if 504,760 of the signatures are from valid voters. Legislative candidates must file and run their campaigns before then, however, so justices needed to identify district maps to be in effect immediately.

County elections offices face a Feb. 24 deadline for certifying FAIR's referendum signatures. Thus far, they have verified 57,761 of 80,127 signatures checked. If the percentage of valid signatures holds steady, 72 percent, the referendum would qualify for the ballot.

Twenty Senate seats are up for grabs this year - and the results carry high-stakes politically.

GOP officials contend that the new, commission drawn lines would give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes or fees.

"If the current redistricting lines hold with regard to the Senate, the Republicans are going to have an enormously difficult time staying above the one-third threshold," California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told The Bee this week.

"We're going to fight like the dickens to do it," he said, "which is in part why, of course, we went ahead with the referendum process. But it will be enormously difficult."

The Supreme Court noted that the commission met its constitutional duty in drawing the new Senate districts and that submittal of referendum petitions signed by perhaps 5 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election does not necessarily disqualify them pending a statewide vote.

Justices previously had rejected a FAIR lawsuit that contended the commission's Senate maps illegallydilute Latino voting clout in parts of the state and violate criteria established by voters in a 2008 ballot measure.

The Supreme Court, in today's decision to use the newly drawn Senate maps, considered alternatives that included using former districts in effect from 2002-2010; combining two commission-drawn Assembly districts to form new Senate districts; or amending the commission's approved Senate maps. Its ruling cited timing, constitutional, minority voting rights or other reasons to reject each one.

In selecting the new but contested Senate districts, the high court ruling said that boundary lines seem to comply with voter-approved criteria and are "a product of what generally appears to have been an open, transparent and nonpartisan redistricting process ... We believe these features may properly be viewed as an element favoring use of the commission-certified map."

* Amended at 11:41 a.m. to add reaction from the commission chairman and from leaders of FAIR.

January 26, 2012
California Supreme Court to rule Friday on state Senate maps

The California Supreme Court will rule Friday on what state Senate district boundary lines will be in effect for this year's legislative elections if a pending referendum qualifies for the ballot.

Justices will post their ruling at 10 a.m. Friday on the court's website, said Lynn Holton, Supreme Court spokeswoman, in a press release.

The matter stems from a referendum attempt by a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, which opposes new state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission and has gathered signatures in an effort to overturn them at the ballot box.

Because this year's legislative elections will be held before the group's map challenge could be decided by voters, the Supreme Court must decide which boundary lines will be used if the referendum qualifies for the ballot.

County elections offices currently are counting signatures filed by FAIR to determine whether 504,760 are from valid voters, which would place the newly drawn Senate maps on the November ballot.

The Supreme Court conceivably could order the FAIR-challenged Senate maps to be used this year. Justices also could revive maps that were in effect from 2002-10 or select a special master to draw new districts.

California's legislative and congressional districts were drawn last year, for the first time ever, by a 14-member citizens commission consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party voters. The Legislature drew political districts in decades past.

* Updated at 2:20 p.m. to add information about the Supreme Court's options and about the structure of the redistricting commission.

January 17, 2012
Federal government approves California's new political districts

California's newly drawn legislative and congressional lines cleared a major hurdle today when the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that they do not dilute minority voting power in four counties under federal oversight.

The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires such approval of any new political districts formed in Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba counties to ensure that they do not adversely affect minority groups.

The justice department gave the green light in a two-paragraph ruling that did not elaborate on its findings.

A Republican-backed coalition, Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) had filed arguments with the justice department challenging the legality of the newly drawn state Senate maps, focusing their arguments on lines drawn in Monterey and Merced counties.

January 10, 2012
California Supreme Court explores which Senate maps to use in redistricting fight

About a month before state Senate candidates must file for the June primary election, the California Supreme Court wrestled Tuesday with which district boundaries should be used if a pending referendum qualifies for the ballot.

A decision by the high court is expected this month on the issue, created by the filing of more than 711,000 signatures by a Republican-backed group seeking to overturn new Senate maps drawn by the state's citizens redistricting commission.

In a 75-minute hearing, justices focused on technical issues, including whether they can only rule if the referendum is "likely to qualify" and what standard should be used to measure that.

Justices also questioned attorneys for the redistricting commission, the secretary of state's office and the Republican-backed group that led the drive -- Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) -- about options if the court decides to intervene.

January 6, 2012
Backers confident redistricting referendum will qualify for ballot

A Republican group backing a referendum challenging newly drawn state Senate districts believe they have inched closer to qualifying just days before the California Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether it should intervene.

As of this afternoon, a sampling of the 709,000 signatures collected by Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting projects that 490,357 are valid, according to the Secretary of State's website. That's roughly 10,000 more than required to launch a full count of verified signatures and 14,000 shy of the threshold to qualify the referendum once the verified signatures are tallied. The referendum needs 504,760 verified signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The latest count doesn't include sample results from 13 counties that still need to report their numbers to the Secretary of State's office by Tuesday.

"We will pass the 100 percent (sample) mark by Tuesday," GOP political consultant and FAIR spokesman Dave Gilliard said this afternoon.

FAIR's lawyers will argue that the sample proves the measure will qualify and that the court should suspend the redrawn Senate district boundaries until voters can weigh in 11 months from now.

But that assessment was strongly disputed by Democratic consultant Jason Kinney, who said the relatively low validity rate of the signatures means the measure "is likely to fail."

FAIR says the new maps unjustly dilute Latino voters' influence and break rules established in the 2008 ballot measure that created the commission itself. Commission officials have defended the maps and argued that the court shouldn't intervene because it is unlikely the referendum could gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The Supreme Court has said it will make a decision by the end of this month, in time for the June primary and the November general elections. Half of the state's Senate's 40 seats are in play this year.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to add comments from Jason Kinney. Updated 5:45 p.m. Jan. 6, 2012.

January 3, 2012
California Supreme Court to meet Jan. 10 on Senate maps

The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week to consider which district lines will be used in this year's state Senate elections if a referendum challenging newly drawn districts qualifies for the ballot.

The session will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10, in the Supreme Court Courtroom at 350 McAllister St., San Francisco.

The high court announced recently that it expects to rule "as early as the end of January" on the issue.

A Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR), sparked the judicial review by gathering more than 700,000 signatures in an effort to let voters decide the fate of Senate maps drawn by the state's citizens redistricting commission.

If 504,760 of the signatures are from valid voters, the group's referendum will qualify for the November ballot.

To prepare for that possibility, the state Supreme Court must decide which state Senate districts would be used in upcoming primary and general elections while a statewide vote on the referendum is pending. Twenty of the state's 40 Senate seats will be up for grabs ithis year, those from odd-numbered districts.

FAIR contends that the commission-drawn maps dilute Latino voting clout in parts of the state and violate criteria established by voters in a 2008 ballot measure that created the redistricting commission.

Commission officials consistently have defended the new Senate maps, and the California Supreme Court rejected a FAIR lawsuit challenging the legality of the lines drawn.

Many political analysts have said the new districts give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain the two-thirds supermajority needed to raise taxes or fees.

December 23, 2011
Catch up on the ProPublica redistricting debate

California's redistricting process this week was the subject of a controversial piece by ProPublica that argued Democrats stealthily and unfairly sought to sway the decisions of the citizens commission that drew the lines.

In case you want to catch up quickly on the conversation, here are the pieces Capitol Alert recommends:
Dan Walters
John Myers

And, just for fun, check out ProPublica's music video on the subject.

December 9, 2011
California Supreme Court to fast-track ruling on Senate maps

The California Supreme Court expects to rule "as early as the end of January" on which state Senate districts would apply to next year's state elections if a referendum challenging newly drawn maps qualifies for the November ballot.

The high court released an expedited briefing schedule today in response to a petition by Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, a Republican-backed group pushing to kill the Senate maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The group, known as FAIR, has submitted more than 700,000 signatures to the state. If 504,760 of those signatures are from valid voters, the group's referendum will qualify for the November ballot.

To prepare for that possibility, the state Supreme Court must decide which state Senate districts would be used in next primary and general elections while a statewide vote on the referendum is pending.

Justices told both parties to submit arguments this month in preparation for oral arguments in early January.

December 2, 2011
GOP-backed group files new court petition against Senate maps

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."

November 25, 2011
Federal suit challenges California's new congressional districts

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.

November 8, 2011
Drive to kill new California Senate districts to submit signatures

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.

November 1, 2011
Federal lawsuit filed against California congressional maps

Critics of California's new congressional districts are taking their case against the political maps to federal court.

Former GOP Rep. George Radanovich and four other plaintiffs announced today that they will file a lawsuit in federal district court arguing that the lines drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission violate the Federal Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit, which will likely be filed later this week in Southern California, will argue that California's 14-member commission violated the law by intentionally not creating majority African-American and Latino congressional districts in Los Angeles County when it drafted the state's 53 congressional districts, according to a release.

"The California Redistricting Commission chose to put politics above the law when they drew the new congressional lines," Radanovich said in a statement. "We are confident the Court will agree with us to right this wrong and order new lines to be drawn."

October 27, 2011
California GOP disclosed donors late, Common Cause says

California Common Cause said today that it has filed a complaint with the state's watchdog agency alleging the state GOP violated disclosure laws in connection with a referendum drive to kill the state's newly drawn Senate districts.

The California Republican Party has made numerous contributions, totaling $936,000, to the referendum drive since late September, state records show. The goal is to qualify a ballot measure aimed at overturning Senate maps created by a state citizens commission.

Common Cause contends that the state GOP failed to comply with laws requiring it to disclose within 10 days the source of money used to make contributions of $5,000 or more to the referendum effort -- or to any state ballot measure.

The party ultimately made the public disclosures -- Tuesday it itemized $1.86 million in donations received. But state records suggest the paperwork for roughly $800,000 of that amount was tardy by days or weeks.

"This is a major party that understands disclosure laws, so the way we look at it, they're either purposely doing this or they have really sloppy bookkeeping," said Phillip Ung of Common Cause. "We think it's more the former than the latter."

Mark Standriff, state GOP spokesman, said the party moved quickly to make the required disclosures once it realized its contributions to the referendum drive triggered a 10-day window for reporting.

"It's very common for major political committees to file amendments on very complex reporting regulations on a regular basis," Standriff said. "In fact, what this frivolous complaint by Common Cause brings to light is the fact that, if anything, they should be commending us for being transparent and proactive. ... It's always our intent to be fully compliant."

Common Cause released a copy of its allegations and documentation to the media. Spokeswoman Tara Stock confirmed this afternoon that the Fair Political Practices Commission had received the complaint and would have two weeks to respond to it.

In a related matter, Common Cause said it filed a complaint with the FPPC alleging that the Republican-backed coalition leading the referendum drive -- Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting -- is legally required to identify itself with a name or phrase that discloses donors of $50,000 or more.

Standriff and Dave Gilliard, a political strategist leading FAIR, declined comment today on Common Cause's allegation.

Editor's note, 4:50 p.m.: This post was updated to reflect that the FPPC confirmed receiving the complaint.

October 27, 2011
GOP fights Senate maps on a new front -- federal government

A Republican-backed coalition that failed to persuade the California Supreme Court to kill the state's newly drawn Senate maps is now asking the federal government to reject the lines as a dilution of Latino voting power.

Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting - leaders of a separate referendum drive against the state Senate maps -- has filed arguments with the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the legality of the new boundary lines, attorney Charles H. Bell Jr. said.

Stan Forbes, chairman of the state's 14-member California Citizens Commission, countered today that he is confident the Senate districts will be given thumbs-up by federal officials.

"We were very careful in meeting (requirements), we were very careful in creating the districts, and everything we did was vetted by our Voting Rights Act attorneys," Forbes said.

Republican officials have expressed concern since their adoption in August that the new Senate districts favor Democrats and could give that party a two-thirds majority in the upper house, the margin needed to raise taxes or fees.

The federal government is required to monitor redistricting in four California counties -- Yuba, Monterey, Kings and Merced -- to ensure that minority voting power be preserved.

The 11-page challenge filed by Bell notes that redistricting lowered from six to five the number of Senate districts in which Latinos comprise 50 percent or more of the voting age population.

October 26, 2011
Senate map fight boosted by $1 million donation to state GOP

A $1 million contribution from the owner of Mercury General Insurance Corp. to the California Republican Party this month has helped the GOP push a referendum challenge to the state's newly drawn Senate districts.

But George Joseph did not earmark his million-dollar donation for any specific purpose, said Mark Standriff, state GOP spokesman.

"Obviously, our focus right now is the Senate map referendum, but we also have a number of other programs, including what is probably the most aggressive and comprehensive voter registration program in our history," Standriff said.

Jeff Green, Mercury General spokesman, released a written statement Wednesday that said Joseph contributed the money "with no restrictions" on the Republican Party's use of it.

"The redistricting referendum was part of the discussion, which included many topics, but it's up to the party to decide how the money should be spent," Green said.

Joseph's contribution to the state GOP on Oct. 13 represents more than half of the $1.86 million in recent donations to the party's coffers, from which $936,000 has been sent since late September to bolster the referendum effort, records show.

October 19, 2011
Six-figure GOP donation pumps life into California map fight

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."

October 12, 2011
California remap commission asks for lawsuits to be dismissed

The commission that drew new political districts for California this year has asked the California Supreme Court to toss out lawsuits challenging lines for Congress and the state Senate.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission's legal response said its maps complied with constitutional requirements and that the lawsuits rely "exclusively on the unsupported factual speculation and legal conclusions of a single, shared 'expert' -- whose preferences they would substitute for the Commission's public process, measured deliberations, and careful exercise of its constitutional mandate."

The commission's lawyers also moved to strike a declaration supporting the lawsuits and filed by Tony Quinn, a GOP consultant and co-author of "The Target Book" guide to California congressional and legislative districts and races, who said the maps were insufficient.

Quinn's opinions, the commission's lawyers responded, in part, are "irrelevant because they consider expressly the effect of redistricting on incumbents and other political candidates, a criterion that the California Constitution prohibited the Commission from considering in its line-drawing process."

September 30, 2011
Munger says he's 'proud father' of new California political maps

By Jim Sanders

BERKELEY -- Charles T. Munger Jr. said today he has no regrets about spending $14 million to alter California's process of drawing new legislative and congressional districts -- even if the newly drawn maps bite his Republican party.

Munger, speaking at a redistricting conference by
UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, said that he would have spent the money to promote creation of a citizens' redistricting commission even if his own party controlled the Legislature.

"Absolutely," he said.

Munger said he contributed more than $1 million to Proposition 11 in 2008, and about $13 million to its companion measure, Proposition 20 of 2010, because he is a firm believer in fair districts and was fed up with legislative gerrymanders.

September 29, 2011
Suit filed against new California congressional districts

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.

September 20, 2011
Drive to nix congressional districts stumbles in starting gate

A referendum drive aimed at killing California's newly drawn congressional districts appears to be on the ropes.

Nearly two weeks after the campaign was cleared to begin collecting signatures, no fundraising groups or donors have been reported to the secretary of state, records show.

Carlos Rodriguez, a Republican political strategist who announced the referendum drive last month, has not returned calls by The Bee this week to check on reports that it is dormant.

GOP strategist Rob Stutzman said today that he has asked to be kept apprised of the campaign's progress, but added, "I'm not aware of any signatures being gathered."

To place the state's newly drawn congressional districts before voters next June, the referendum must collect 504,760 voter signatures by Nov. 14.

September 20, 2011
GOP to state voters: Kill Senate maps or brace for tax increases

Here's the pitch to GOP voters: Unless newly drawn state Senate maps are killed, Democrats will seize control of the Legislature, raise taxes and kowtow to public employee unions.

The California Republican Party is sending a letter to a million voters, reading: "Your signature on the enclosed petition will stop liberal Democrats in Sacramento from tripling the car tax and dismantling Proposition 13."

The letter and petition are key elements of a referendum campaign to kill California's 40 new state Senate districts, which were drawn for the first time this year by a 14-member citizens commission rather than by the Legislature.

The group coordinating the signature-gathering campaign, Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR, has raised about $500,000 thus far -- primarily from GOP interests, records show. Voters would decide the fate of the Senate maps in an election next June if 504,760 valid signatures are collected by Nov. 14.

Many political analysts have said the new districts give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain a two-thirds majority. Prospects of doing so in the Assembly are cloudier, analysts say.

The GOP letter is more emphatic: "If allowed to go into effect, this redistricting scheme will give liberal Democrats a two-thirds majority and the one-party rule they have dreamed of for years," it said.

September 15, 2011
Lawsuit asks court to kill new California Senate districts

Arguing that California's newly drawn Senate districts are unconstitutional, a Republican Party-backed group filed a lawsuit today asking the California Supreme Court to kill the new maps.

"We believe there are serious constitutional flaws in the maps produced by the redistricting commission, and these are matters that the Supreme Court should look at immediately," spokesman David Gilliard said.

Gilliard's group, Fairness & Accountability In Redistricting (FAIR), also is collecting signatures in a referendum drive aimed at asking voters to reject the newly drawn Senate districts in a statewide election next June.

August 30, 2011
Referendum filed to overturn California congressional maps

A referendum has been filed to overturn the new congressional districts created by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the attorney general's office reported today.

The effort joins one already under way to undo the maps the commission drew for state Senate districts.

Filing the referendum with the attorney general is the first step in the process that ultimately requires the collection of 504,760 valid voter signatures within about three months to halt implementation of the maps until voters decide their fate on the June 2012 ballot. If the referendum qualifies for the ballot, the state Supreme Court would draw new maps or decide which maps to use in the upcoming political races.

The measure was filed by Julie Vandermost, an Orange County development and environmental consultant, and Charles Bell, a prominent Sacramento lawyer for Republican causes. Neither could be immediately reached for comment.

August 26, 2011
Drive to repeal Senate maps gets boost from four GOP senators

Republican state Sens. Tony Strickland, Mimi Walters, Joel Anderson and Doug LaMalfa are among the first contributors to a signature-gathering campaign aimed at repealing the state's newly drawn Senate districts.

GOP strategist David Gilliard said the drive has about $500,000 in contributions or commitments from business, community and political groups, including the California Republican Party.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson has joined with other GOP leaders in sending out a fundraising appeal that contends the new districts could enable Democrats to gain a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

"Democrats are perilously close to gaining the ability to raise our taxes and expand our already bloated government -- unless we take immediate action," the mailer said.

"The state Senate lines drawn by the California Redistricting Commission virtually guarantee a Democrat super-majority in the California State Senate in 2012. A successful drive to put a referendum on the June 2012 ballot is the best way to prevent this from happening."

State law requires Gilliard's group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR, to report contributions of $5,000 or more within 10 days of receipt.

Strickland and Walters have contributed $25,000 apiece, Anderson $10,000, and LaMalfa, $5,000. Other contributors are Patrick Dirk, chief executive officer of the Troy Group, $10,000; Paula and Kent Meehan Trust of Beverly Hills, $10,000; and Barth Family Trust of San Marino, $7,500, state records show.

Strickland and Walters could be harmed by the new Senate districts, which were drawn for the first time this year by a 14-member citizens commission rather than the Legislature.

Strickland, R-Moorpark, has seen his safe Republican seat redrawn as a competitive district in which Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills also resides.

Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, was moved into an even-numbered district, meaning that she must relocate to seek a new four-year term next year or leave the Legislature when her current term expires in 2014 and wait two years to run again for a Senate seat.

Gilliard said the drive hopes to begin gathering signatures statewide next week. It must collect 504,760 valid voter signatures to qualify for the June 2012 ballot.

August 24, 2011
More California incumbents in House poised for showdown

The San Fernando Valley battle between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman will likely be far from California's only showdown between congressional incumbents next year.

A POLITICO story published today reports that nearly one third of the state's 53 House members could find themselves facing a fellow incumbent in 2012 under the new district maps created by the Citizens Redistricting Commission:

California political players say they can't remember a time in the state's history when so many of its House lawmakers were poised to run against one another.

"It's totally unprecedented," said Ben Tulchin, a San Francisco-based Democratic pollster who works for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. "It has never happened at this scale anywhere in the country that I can think of."

As for what party leaders can do to avoid the strife -- and cost -- of contests between incumbents from the same party? Not much, says California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.

"I mean, what are you going to do?" Burton told POLITICO. "There are a few things you can't do in life. You can't tell people whether or not to run for office and you can't tell them who to marry."

Click here to read the full story.

August 18, 2011
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani launches state Senate run

BB BUDGET VOTE 0449 galgiani.JPGDemocratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani has announced plans to run for state Senate in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Livingston Democrat plans to run for the 5th Senate District seat established by the new political maps approved this week by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Galgiani is serving her third and final term representing the current 17th Assembly District, which includes Merced County and parts of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

Galgiani said in a statement that the new Senate seat includes "significant" portions of her Assembly district and "presents an opportunity to continue to work on the vital issues I've spent the last several years working on in the Assembly."

"I am no stranger to the serious issues facing this region," she added.

Democrats hold a four-point voter registration edge over Republicans in the new swing district. Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, is also considered a possible candidate for the seat in 2012, though his current term is not up until 2014.

Galgiani had previously announced plans to run for secretary of state in 2014, but her campaign spokeswoman said she is entirely focused right now on running for the Senate in 2012.

PHOTO CREDIT: Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, casts her vote on the budget cuts portion of the Democratic budget plan during the Assembly floor session, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008. Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee.

August 17, 2011
Referendum papers filed to challenge new Senate districts

A GOP-backed group has formally started the process of seeking to overturn the new state Senate districts drawn by an independent redistricting panel.

An attorney representing a coalition called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting filed referendum papers with the state attorney general's office yesterday. The effort, run by GOP strategist Dave Gilliard, has the backing of the California Republican Party and the Senate Republican Caucus.

The referendum drive was announced Monday after members of the state's new Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted the political boundaries for congressional, state legislative and Board of Equalization districts that it drafted as part of the decennial redistricting process.

Referendum proponents, who have taken issue with both the process for drafting the maps and the outcome, will have less than three months to collect the 504,760 valid voter signatures needed to ask voters to reject the Senate boundaries. If the referendum qualifies for the June 2012 ballot, the state Supreme Court would draw new maps or decide which maps to use in the upcoming political races.

The executive director of one good government group that supported the voter-approved ballot measures that created the commission blasted the referendum effort, saying in a statement it is "motivated by pure party politics, funded by incumbents, who did not get the safe districts that they wanted."

"They have made a variety of baseless claims that ignore the fact that the maps were approved by a super-majority of Commissioners of both parties and independents and were drawn in a fair and open process with public input at every step," California Common Cause Executive Director Kathay Feng said.

The filing asks the state attorney general to draft a title and summary so proponents can begin collecting signatures. Read it here.


Referendum drive gears up as state's new political maps OK'd

August 15, 2011
Referendum drive gears up as state's new political maps OK'd

Officials of the California Republican Party and the Senate Republican Caucus said today that they will support a signature-gathering drive aimed at overturning newly drawn Senate districts meant for next year's election.

The disclosure of a referendum drive came hours after California's independent redistricting commission approved 80 Assembly, 40 Senate, 53 congressional and four Board of Equalization seats, ending months of public hearings and debate.

Commissioner Michael Ward was the sole member of the 14-member panel to vote against all three maps. Commissioner Jodie Filkins Webber joined him in voting no on the congressional map.

Both Ward and Filkins Webber are Republicans. If they had been joined by one other commissioner from their party, the congressional maps would have been rejected.

August 15, 2011
California redistricting commission adopts new district maps

The state's first independent redistricting commission approved new maps for 177 state legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts Monday - but whether they will be implemented or canceled by legal and political challenges remains unclear.

The maps for 80 Assembly districts, 40 Senate districts, 53 congressional districts and four Board of Equalization districts were approved with a smattering of "no" votes from some Republican members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

At least three Republicans, three Democrats and three independents on the 14-member commission had to approve the maps. Their adoption followed months of hearings and line-by-line discussions by commission members.

Republican Party officials have sharply criticized the new maps, which could result in Democratic gains in the Legislature and the congressional delegation - perhaps enough in the former to give Democrats two-thirds majorities. GOP officials are weighing a referendum drive that would subject the maps to a popular vote next year.

Latino rights activists have also criticized the maps for, they say, not fully encompassing the state's large gain in Latino population over the last decade. They may seek review from the U.S. Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act.

If the commission's maps are stalled by either a lawsuit or a referendum, the state Supreme Court would step in and adopt its own maps that would be used for the 2012 elections - or longer if the maps are rejected.

Monday's action was a formality because the final maps were informally approved two weeks earlier.

August 10, 2011
POLL: Are California's state legislative districts too big?

Are California's state legislative districts too big, too small or just the right size?

Ventura County Star columnist Timm Herdt argues in a piece today that the state's 40 Senate and 80 Assembly districts are far too populous.

"Five of the 50 states have fewer people" than one of California's state Senate districts, he points out, adding that each of them contains 10 times as many people as the national average.

Each Senate district drawn during the latest decennial redistricting process is home to about 931,000 constituents. Assembly districts contain about 465,000 people.

Do you agree with Herdt's assessment that California needs more legislators?

Cast your vote below in our latest Capitol Alert poll and share your thoughts on the Goldilocks dilemma for the Golden State's districts in the comment forum. You can read Herdt's full piece at this link.

August 9, 2011
New district maps misplace Mount Whitney by 125 miles

Mount Whitney 2.JPGCalifornia's new redistricting commission has been moving the lines of 177 congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts, but who knew it could move a mountain -- and the state's tallest mountain at that?

The online political maps devised by the Citizens Redistricting Commission place Mt. Whitney right in the middle of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, about 125 miles northwest of its true location. The commission relied on a commonly used mapping service provided by Google to supply background information such as roads and cities, and the mistake is in Google's data.

Mount Whitney is not only California's highest peak at about 14,500 feet (its precise elevation is a matter of technical dispute) but the highest in the 48 adjacent states.

The cartographic error was brought to the commission's attention in a letter from Linda Green, executive editor of the Visalia Times-Delta and two other California newspapers. But Green made an error of her own.

"Your maps contain errors," Green wrote the commission after it published its maps, which are to be finalized next Monday. "For example, in Central California, Death Valley is placed east of Visalia. It is south, then east. Mount Whitney is placed directly east of Modesto. It is not -- it is almost directly east of Dinuba. I hope you can fix these errors. They undermine the trust anyone can put in the maps."

Actually, the commission maps accurately fix the location of Death Valley National Park, just 80 miles east of Mount Whitney and 281 feet below sea level, while placing Mount Whitney much too far north -- not that the error affects how districts were drawn since the peak has no human population.

Commissioner Vincent Barabba said Tuesday that the final maps would be corrected to place Mount Whitney in its correct location before publication. The Sacramento Bee's interactive redistricting site also uses Google's maps and therefore misplaces Mount Whitney as well.

The commission's maps can be found here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Climbers position themselves at a campsite below the east face of Mount Whitney near Iceberg Lake. Paul Richins / Sacramento Bee file photo, 2004.

August 3, 2011
Interactive map shows your new political districts

maps.JPGStill scratching your head over how the California Citizens Redistricting Commission has reshaped the districts of legislators and members of Congress?

Fear no more.

The Bee's Nathaniel Levine has created an interactive map that allows you to enter a California address and see the new boundaries and political make-up for Assembly, Senate and congressional districts.

July 29, 2011
Jeff Gorell's district redrawn during deployment to Afghanistan

ha_assembly jeff gorell.JPGWhen Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell returns home next spring from a yearlong military deployment to Afghanistan, he'll find that his district has been redrawn to contain more Democrats than Republicans.

Maps tentatively approved by the state's redistricting commission show Gorell in a Ventura County district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by two percentage points. A final vote is scheduled Aug. 15.

Currently, the freshman lawmaker from Camarillo represents an area where the GOP has a five-point edge. The Navy reservist was deployed to Afghanistan in March, a few months after he took office.

July 29, 2011
California legislative, congressional maps win thumbs up

New legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization boundaries were tentatively approved Friday by California's Citizens Redistricting Commission, ending months of hearings, public comments and debate.

Final action will be taken Aug. 15 on the maps, which are expected to be used for next year's statewide races.

The 53-district congressional plan nearly was killed by Republicans, receiving no votes from GOP members Michael Ward and Jodie Filkins Webber. Three other Republicans on the panel gave the maps thumbs up.

July 28, 2011
California redistricting panel prepares for lawsuits

Bracing for litigation, California's independent redistricting commission has decided to temporarily retain most of its key aides after acting on the state political districts it was formed to create.

The 14-member commission is scheduled to take a tentative vote Friday on its new legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization maps. Final action is scheduled Aug. 15.

The commission voted this week to retain its executive director, legal counsel, communications director, business manager, a computer expert, and two people to provide administrative support.

Two other commission employees will work part-time: a budget officer and an assistant legal counsel.

The retention is not open-ended, however: The commission said it will re-evaluate staffing needs in mid-October, when it will know whether and how many legal challenges to its maps are filed.

Five data interns, a procurement specialist, and an employee in the budget division were not retained and will leave the commission in weeks ahead.

Voting members of the commission do not receive a salary but are paid $300 in per diem to defray expenses. The panel consists of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party members.

New legislative and congressional maps are required only once every 10 years. Voter-approved ballot measures that created the commission envisioned that it would remain viable for three years per decade, but no staffing level was specified.

July 25, 2011
Independent commission finishes drawing new districts

California's first-ever independent redistricting commission finished drawing 177 new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization maps late Sunday after a rare conflict over racial issues.

The new maps, which will be released to the public on Friday, are expected to generate a flurry of lawsuits and at least one referendum drive, all of which would, if successful, shift redistricting to the courts for final resolution before the 2012 elections.

Created by two ballot measures, the commission is doing a job that in the past had been done either by the Legislature or the courts. Overall, its districts - if finally adopted - are expected to give the state's dominant Democratic Party opportunities to gain two-thirds majorities in the Legislature and increase its control of the state's congressional delegation.

The 14-member commission - five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents - spent the entire weekend on final district-by-district reviews, making dozens of mostly minor changes that sometimes involved just a few people.

But it was a proposed major change - reconfiguring three congressional districts in Los Angeles County - that created the commission's only major blowup.

July 22, 2011
Eight senators affected by redistricting panel's 'musical chairs'

A decision by California's redistricting commission today could alter or jeopardize the political careers of numerous California state senators in what amounts to a numbers game whose stakes are massive.

Affected senators are Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina; Rod Wright, D-Inglewood; , D-San Leandro; Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel; and Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale.

Other senators caught in the numbers game are not likely to feel much pain -- Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, will be termed out of the Legislature in 2014 so she is ineligible to run in any new Senate district. Two other Democrats are vying for other offices, Juan Vargas of San Diego for Congress and Leland Yee of San Francisco for city mayor.

Today's decision by the 14-member redistricting commission numbered each legislative district, which is crucial to senators because odd-numbered districts are on the 2012 ballot while even-numbered ones will not be contested until 2014.

Impacts of the commission's numbering decision are tentative - their weight could be reduced for some lawmakers and intensified for others if the panel alters draft district maps before a final vote Aug. 15.

July 21, 2011
Two big law firms poised to defend new district maps

The commission that's redrawing California's congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts is poised to hire two of the state's most prominent law firms to defend its maps against almost certain legal challenges.

A two-member committee of the Citizens Redistricting Commission interviewed five firms and on Thursday, recommended that it hire Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher -- which is already providing the commission with advice on federal Voting Rights Act issues -- and Morrison and Foerster, which goes by the acronym MoFo.

George Brown, the Gibson, Dunn partner who has been the commission's day-to-day legal adviser, will head the defense team for his firm. The lead MoFo attorney is James Brosnahan, best known as a principal attorney for the successful federal court challenge to Proposition 8, California's anti-gay marriage initiative, and for representing John Walker Lindh, the American accused of supporting the Taliban.

The 14-member commission is making final adjustments to its maps in anticipation of a July 28 release. Choosing a legal defense team is important because everyone involved expects that the new maps will face both immediate legal challenges, alleging violation of federal and state laws, and one or more signature drives to overturn the maps via referendum.

There also may be appeals to the U.S. Justice Department for intervention on Voting Rights Act grounds.

The legal defense contract will be for at least $500,000 and could be as much as $1.5 million if there is prolonged litigation.

July 20, 2011
Six state senators to represent Sacramento County?

senatemap.JPGTrivia question: What is Sacramento County divided by six?

Answer: A lightning rod for controversy, judging from reaction to plans by California's independent redistricting commission to split the county's suburbs into six state Senate districts.

"I think it kills the voice of the (suburbs)," Rancho Cordova Councilman Ken Cooley said of the newest proposals, released Wednesday, which continue to show the six-district split.

Rancho Cordova would be a key focus of the slicing and dicing, with older and newer sections of the city split into separate Senate districts.

Motorists traveling an eight-mile stretch of Highway 50 from Folsom Auto Mall to Bradshaw Road would drive through four Senate districts under the latest proposals, Cooley said.

Much of central Sacramento County would remain in one Senate district, but other districts would extend roughly from Wilton to Death Valley; from Galt to Modesto; from Rancho Cordova to Red Bluff; and from Folsom to the Nevada and Oregon borders. A tiny sliver of the county, Isleton, would be part of a wide-ranging district stretching from Yolo County through parts of Napa, Solano and Contra Costa counties.

Consultant Paul Mitchell, of Redistricting Partners, said sparse populations in many northern California counties have prompted the commission to target Sacramento County in equalizing Senate districts. Each must have about 931,000 residents.

The panel, charged with drawing legislative and congressional districts, has tended to focus in Northern California on the San Francisco area and on restrictions against diluting the voting power of minority groups, Mitchell said.

"Sacramento is always like a third or fourth domino," he said.

Political analyst Tony Quinn said the commission has balked at joining parts of Marin and San Francisco counties into one Senate district, which has created a ripple that narrows Sacramento County's district options, Quinn said.

Sacramento County suburbs would be a big loser under the latest draft maps, he said.

"You cannot have effective representation if you don't have some logic to it," Quinn said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that six state senators would represent parts of Sacramento County. Updated, 2:45 p.m. July 20, 2011

July 20, 2011
New congressional map keeps Sacramento airport with capital

MC_TRAVEL.04.JPGNew draft maps released by California's independent redistricting commission would keep Sacramento International Airport in the same congressional district as much of the capital.

The 14-member commission previously had proposed placing the airport in a congressional district with Yuba, Glenn and Napa counties, among others. Its new draft maps are available today at

Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna said it made little sense to separate much of central Sacramento County from the airport, which receives oversight from county supervisors and contributes billions to the local economy.

The commission's previous boundary proposals "unreasonably suggest" that the airport is more tied to Glenn County than to downtown Sacramento, Serna wrote to the independent commission setting legislative and congressional districts.

"By all accounts, this is irrational," Serna concluded.

California's Citizens Redistricting Commission will debate its new proposals this week. It is scheduled to release final maps July 28, then allow time for public review before voting on them Aug. 15.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento International Airport, Nov. 10, 2010. Manny Crisostomo / Sacramento Bee file

July 15, 2011
Huber: Run for Lungren's congressional seat is 'on my radar'

ACW ALYSON HUBER 2.JPGAssemblywoman Alyson Huber is eying a possible challenge to incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Lungren in 2012.

The two-term Assembly Democrat from El Dorado Hills confirmed to Capitol Alert that running for Congress next year is something that is "on my radar."

"I have not made a decision to do that, but I am looking at how redistricting is shaping up," Huber said Thursday. "Once we actually know where all the lines are and all the districts, I'm going to explore all my options."

Huber's prospects for election to a third term in the state Assembly could be tough under the map visualizations released by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The latest versions would pit Huber against GOP Assemblywoman Beth Gaines in a district that would be be far more conservative than the swing district she has represented since 2008. But the congressional district currently represented by Lungren is shaping up to be more competitive under the draft maps, making the Gold River Republican's seat a likely target for Democrats again next year.

Huber did not indicate a time line for deciding whether she will run, besides saying she wants to wait until the commission finalizes its work on the state's new political district maps next month. She wouldn't be the only Democrat in the race -- Elk Grove physician Ami Bera, who lost a 2010 bid against Lungren, has already announced plans for another run at the seat. Huber's residence currently falls outside the district lines, while the latest visualizations put Bera living inside the district.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Bera lives outside the current district. The latest map visualizations put his Elk Grove residence in the district.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, then a candidate, speaking at Rancho Cordova City Hall in October, 2008. Anne Chadwick Williams/Sacramento Bee

July 13, 2011
There's nothing fishy as redistricting panel talks about 'COI'

Anyone who tunes into the webcasts of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission's meetings this week might wonder why its members keep talking about goldfish.

Every other comment, it seems, refers to koi, the much-prized Asian fish. But insiders know that the commission, which is redrawing the state's congressional and legislative districts, isn't being fishy.

Rather, the acronym "COI" refers to "community of interest," which state law says should be one factor in deciding how to draw the lines, although its definition is a bit vague. It can refer to a geographic region, an ethnic enclave or economic symbiosis, depending on the specifics under discussion.

The 14-member commission is trying to firm up its plans for 80 Assembly districts, 40 state Senate districts, 53 congressional districts and four Board of Equalization districts because of a looming deadline. It has cancelled plans to release a second set of draft maps and is now concentrating on final maps.

The final maps are due next month but the commission's staff has set a July 20 deadline for major decisions so that it can complete the technical mapmaking.

July 11, 2011
Release of revised legislative and congressional maps canceled

There will be no new release of proposed legislative and congressional district maps this week after all.

California's first citizens redistricting commission has opted to cancel Thursday's scheduled release of revised boundary proposals that were intended to respond to scores of letters and e-mails received after the June 10 release of tentative maps.

Instead of a second round of maps, the 14-member citizens commission said it will post "visualizations of proposed districts" - conceptual boundaries - to generate additional feedback before release on July 28 of what are expected to be the final maps.

The redistricting commission, after making the decision in a Saturday meeting, posted a vague notification on its website that indicated more time is needed for consideration and debate.

The panel's announcement said only that "in order to produce the best district maps possible, it will amend its schedule and not release a second round of draft maps."

A flood of letters has been received by the commission the past month, many from people who complain about proposals they feel would split their community unfairly or dilute the voting power of some minority groups.

The commission, assuming powers formerly held by the Legislature, was created by passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 to draw legislative and Board of Equalization districts. Its powers were expanded by voters last year to include congressional maps.

Final maps for 80 Assembly districts, 40 state Senate districts, 53 congressional districts, and four Board of Equalization districts must be approved by Aug. 15. The drawing of new lines, called redistricting, is done every 10 years.

Commission approval of its new maps requires support from nine of its 14 members, including three Democrats, three Republicans, and three independent or minor-party voters.

June 28, 2011
Good news for David Dreier from redistricting panel? Perhaps

Things may be looking up for Rep. David Dreier.

The San Dimas Republican was penciled into a new congressional district dominated by Democrats under the first draft maps by the state's redistricting commission, but he had reason for hope under a new concept unveiled Friday.

"It could potentially save one of the Republican seats in Los Angeles," said Paul Mitchell, a redistricting consultant and Democratic political consultant who identified the potential beneficiaries as Dreier or Rep. Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar.

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the redistricting commission, cautioned Tuesday against drawing conclusions from the very conceptual maps, which he characterized as "visualizations" rather than actual proposals.

Boundary lines were drawn, in part, to increase the number of likely Los Angeles-area Latino congressional seats in consideration of the federal Voting Rights Act, meant to protect the voting power of minority groups.

The conceptual maps were shown to the redistricting commission for comment, then line drawers went back to the drawing board.

The boundary proposals targeted only a handful of congressional districts -- none safe for Dreier -- but their location suggested that a district could be drawn near his home that could make him a viable candidate, according to Mitchell.

While Dreier appeared to benefit from the exercise, Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson of Long Beach may have lost ground.

Under the conceptual maps, the number of safe African American congressional seats in Los Angeles would drop from three to two -- with Richardson the likely loser, Mitchell said.

June 20, 2011
Don't split capital to create new legislative districts, officials say

Key Sacramento city officials are protesting a plan by California's fledgling redistricting commission to sever portions of eastern Sacramento from the central city in crafting new legislative districts.

Sacramento Councilmen Kevin McCarty and Steve Cohn jointly sent a letter expressing "serious concerns" to the 14-member panel. Interim City Manager Bill Edgar sent a separate letter asking that draft maps be adjusted to resolve the issue.

The controversy stems from tentative boundaries unveiled this month that join central Sacramento with Davis and West Sacramento, but divide portions of the city to extend into separate districts running south through Elk Grove and east into El Dorado County.

Severed from Sacramento's central city under the plan include the communities of East Sacramento, Tahoe Park, Elmhurst, College Glen, Colonial Manor, Campus Commons, Sierra Oaks and the Power Inn area, McCarty and Cohn said.

"Splitting these neighboring communities and separating school boundaries, business activity, economic development, higher education opportunities, hospital synergy and general neighborhood connectivity seems completely contrary to the goals of the (state) to link communities of interest," the two councilmen said.

June 13, 2011
More competitive seats under draft political maps, PPIC says

The number of competitive seats in the Legislature and in California's congressional delegation would jump significantly under draft maps released Friday, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

More competitive seats could give Democrats a better chance of securing the two-thirds legislative majority needed to raise state taxes in future years, which would require capturing two additional seats in both the Assembly and Senate.

Under tentative proposals by California's new redistricting commission, the number of competitive Assembly seats would rise from nine to 16; competitive state Senate seats, from three to nine; and competitive U.S. House of Representative seats, from four to nine, PPIC concluded.

No formula is considered foolproof in calculating the number of competitive seats. Analysts use different approaches and reach differing conclusions, serving as grist for lively debate.

PPIC defined a competitive seat as one that falls between a five-point registration advantage for Republicans and a 10-point advantage for Democrats, which it said reflects the fact that Democrats are more likely to cross party lines.

Democrats currently hold 52 of 80 seats in the Assembly; 25 of 40 seats in the state Senate, and 34 of 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The redistricting commission plans to hold public hearings statewide before fine-tuning its maps by July 7.

June 10, 2011
California redistricting commission turns to public for help

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is looking for Californians to break out their red pens.

With the release of drafts of new Congressional and legislative boundary lines, the commission will hold 11 public meetings this month from San Diego to Sacramento. It took the commission 23 meetings over two months to get to this point.

"We are going back into our communities to continue this dialogue with the public," chairman Gino Aguirre said. "There are probably more things we could work on given more time, and we are giving ourselves more time. The purpose of providing these maps (so early) is for that specific purpose."

The commission's next landmark will come July 7, when it releases a second draft that includes the number for each district. The numbering matters particularly for Senate districts, because odds and evens are elected in separate batches every other two years.

The commission is scheduled to hold a third round of eight meetings in mid-July. Those meetings likely will be held in locations that still have significant concerns with the maps, commissioner Stanley Forbes said. The final drafts are expected July 28, with the commission planning to make them official on Aug. 15.

Commissioners all gave a thumbs-up to the work they've done so far.

"Redistricting hasn't happened in a transparent and community-engaging kind of way," Aguirre said, referring to the old process where legislators designed the maps. "We understand that those districts have been drawn for incumbency and partisan gamesmanship."

Forbes said the question they are now asking Californians is "Do these maps reasonably closely represent what you asked us to do?"

June 10, 2011
Maps analyze party registration for draft Senate, Assembly lines

Bee colleague Phillip Reese has analyzed the party registration breakdown for the new draft Senate and Assembly district lines that the California Redistricting Commission released earlier today. Safe or Democratic-leaning districts tend to hug the coast, while safe or Republican-leaning districts tend to be clustered inland. Scroll down to take a look.

UPDATE 2:47 p.m.: A typo in the Senate map has been corrected.

Senate Party Registration Breakdown (corrected)

Assembly Party Registration Breakdown

June 10, 2011
State Senate maps increase competitive seats

BB BUDGET 0040.JPGForty proposed state Senate districts just won unanimous approval from the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, slightly increasing the number of swing districts in the upper house.

A preliminary analysis of the draft districts by Bee database reporter Phillip Reese shows 27 would be considered safe or leaning for Democrats, 11 safe or leaning for Republicans and two in the swing category. That's an increase in competitive seats from the current district make-up, which - on paper -- has 27 safe or leaning Democratic seats, 12 safe or leaning GOP seats and only one swing district.

Reese's formula for determining safe and swing districts applies current voter registration figures and the outcome of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman gubernatorial race last November. Districts that have a registration advantage for one party but chose a gubernatorial candidate of another party are considered swing.

Of course there are other factors at play in specific districts, particularly incumbency, that could increase the number of swing districts.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis find themselves residing in the same Sacramento-region Senate district. But the two Democrats would never have to battle each other for the seat.

Wolk, who lives in Davis, was first elected in 2008 to an odd-numbered district. Her term ends in 2012. If the new draft district including Davis remained the same in the final maps and was given an odd number by the commission, Wolk said she would run again in 2012. Steinberg, a Sacramento resident elected to an even-numbered district, would not be eligible to run because was elected in 2010, giving him a seat until 2014. Members may serve only two terms in the Senate.

If the district that included Davis received an even number, Steinberg would remain the representative through 2014 and Wolk would have the option to sit out for two years and then run for a second term in 2014. Either way, Wolk said she plans to run for a second term in whatever district includes Davis, and that Steinberg would support her.

The draft Sacramento-area district combines the current districts of Wolk and Steinberg by dropping cities such as Woodland from Wolk's and Citrus Heights from Steinberg's. Wolk's chief of staff Craig Reynolds said Sacramento's legislative maps may change significantly before they are finalized because the 14-member commission has not yet spent significant time reviewing the region in public meetings.

Through all the switching, one key point is a senator would not represent anyone who didn't elect him or her unless those constituents were assigned the senator, called a deferral. That means they elected a senator in 2008 and would get their next chance to do so in 2014 instead of 2012. Those residents would be assigned a temporary representative to reach out to by the Senate leadership. Reynolds noted that Yolo County voters have been deferrals in each of the past three redistricting processes.

Otherwise, the draft Senate maps show GOP Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville would reside in a district that covers much of eastern Sacramento County, Roseville and El Dorado Hills. It leans Republican. GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale stays in a safe Republican District. The proposed maps create a new solidly Republican "Foothills" district covering eastern, mostly rural El Dorado and Placer counties. No local incumbent lives in that proposed district.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg offers valentine candy to Senator Lois Wolk in 2009. Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee.

June 10, 2011
Three Sacramento-area Assembly Democrats land in same district

The redistricting commission has just unanimously approved the draft of 80 new Assembly districts, creating more swing districts statewide and packaging three Sacramento-area Democrats in the same district.

A preliminary analysis of the draft districts by Bee database reporter Phillip Reese shows 51 would be considered safe for Democrats, 24 safe for Republicans and five in the swing category. That's an increase in competitive seats from the current district make-up, which has 52 safe Democratic seats, 26 safe GOP seats and only two swing districts.

Reese's formula for determining safe and swing districts applies current voter registration figures and the outcome of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman gubernatorial race last November. Districts that have a registration advantage for one party but chose a gubernatorial candidate of another party are considered swing. Of course there are other factors at play in particular districts that could increase the number of swing districts.

The Assembly maps approved today, which will serve as a starting point for further public comment, also have Democratic Assembly members Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan bunched with Davis Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada in a Sacramento-West Sacramento-Davis district.

Reese's analysis shows Yamada could move her home less than a mile south and find herself in a relatively safe Democratic district that has no incumbent and stretches across much of Solano County.

There's also now a heavily Democratic district covering Elk Grove and South Sacramento with no Assembly member currently living in it. Republican Assemblywoman Beth Gaines of Roseville remains in a heavily Republican district. GOP Assemblymen Dan Logue of Linda and Jim Nielsen of Gerber reside in the same proposed district.

Democratic Assemblywoman Alyson Huber of El Dorado Hills remains in an evenly divided district.

June 10, 2011
Redistricting commission releases draft maps

The website of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission now features the draft maps everyone's been waiting for.

The maps show the proposed new boundary lines for Assembly, Senate, Congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

The maps can be found here. The drafts on the website don't feature partisan breakdowns of the district, but The Bee and other groups will release analyses later today.

The commission is currently meeting to consider formal approval of the draft maps. The meeting is broadcast online here.

The commission will hold public hearings throughout June to get input about how the drafts can be improved. The final maps are expected to be adopted on Aug. 15.

June 9, 2011
California redistricting commission investigates internal tiff, tears

As if re-shaping California's congressional and legislative districts wasn't enough to occupy its time, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission distracted itself last month with an internal investigation into a commissioner's tiff with a consultant and a staffer who cried while recalling the exchange.

The commission's lawyer, Marian Johnston, concluded it was a misunderstanding, but not without issuing a five-page report. The incident and its "aftermath," Johnston said in an email to map-drawing expert Karin MacDonald, "are becoming a devisive (sic) issue for the Commission."

According to Johnston's report, MacDonald, whose selection was criticized by Republicans because of her ties to Democrats, was walking to her car with a staffer, Tamina Alon, when a commissioner, Michael Ward, told them he trusted their work but others didn't, advocating an independent review. MacDonald told another commissioner, Maria Blanco, about the exchange the next day. When Blanco asked Alon about it, she began crying, the report said.

Following a series of interviews, Johnston concluded Alon cried "because she was exhausted and insulted by the thought that she was not trusted," not because she was afraid of Ward.

She isn't afraid of him, the report said.

"This appears to be an unfortunate case of misunderstanding, caused by frustration and fatigue, with no apparent improper conduct or actions by Commissioner Ward," the lawyer concluded.

Johnston Report

June 8, 2011
Boundary revisions have some politicians breathing easier

Easy come, easy go? Perhaps.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission, after releasing "visualizations" of legislative and congressional districts last week, is fine-tuning the proposals in ways that appear to help some politicians.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez initially was targeted for a Republican congressional district, but she would be saved by revisions unveiled Tuesday, according to Redistricting Partners, a political research firm.

Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, no longer would be targeted for the same Senate district as colleague Joel Anderson, R-Alpine; and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, no longer would be drawn into an Orange County Republican district, the research firm noted.

San Francisco's two Senate districts would be slashed to one under conceptual boundaries released Tuesday, the firm added.

Though any lines drawn will impact incumbents and potential candidates, positively or negatively, the commission is prohibited by law from considering politicians' residences and has not done so in deliberations.

Additional changes are likely, either this week or before Aug. 15, when final maps of legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts must be completed by the commission.

The 14-member panel is scheduled to release its first draft maps Friday, then solicit public testimony statewide.

Redistricting Partners is led by Paul Mitchell, a Democratic political consultant whose resume includes a four-year stint as political director of EdVoice, an education advocacy group.

May 26, 2011
California's Latino population booming, Census Bureau finds

California's Latino population grew nearly three times as much as the state as a whole in the last decade, making the state home to more than a quarter of the nation's Latinos, according to a new Census Bureau report.

While California's population grew by 10 percent, the 2010 census found, the Latino growth was 27.6 percent, accounting for more than 90 percent of the state's overall population gain. Latinos accounted for more than half of the nation's growth during the decade and now are 16.3 percent of the U.S. population.

Latinos, the census said, now are 37.6 percent of all Californians, up more than five percentage points since 2000. That percentage is exactly the same as that of Texas, with both states trailing only New Mexico, at 46.3 percent.

Many states have seen higher Latino growth rates than California, some nearly 150 percent, such as Alabama and South Carolina.

Latinos now trail non-Latino whites in California by about four percentage points. They are expected to become the state's largest ethnic group by mid-decade.

Their expanding numbers are playing a major role in redrawing legislative and congressional districts. The maps now being drawn by the state's new redistricting commission are expected to result in a sharp increase in Latino officeholders. Preliminary versions of the new maps are to be released on June 10.

May 18, 2011
Deadline looms as redistricting panel solicits Auburn testimony

Weeks before it is scheduled to release preliminary maps of new legislative and congressional districts, California's first-ever Citizens Redistricting Commission will solicit public comment this week in Auburn.

The Auburn event, one of a series of public hearings statewide by the 14-member commission, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Placer County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 175 Fulweiler Ave.

Participants are urged to testify about their community, the kind of people who live there, important issues, and communities of interest -- meaning, groups that share common interests and should be considered in drawing district boundaries in time for next year's statewide election.

The commission, created when voters passed Proposition 11 in 2008, is scheduled to release preliminary maps on June 10, a key step toward completing its work by Aug. 15.

The citizens panel is charged with setting boundaries for California's 120 legislative districts, 53 congressional districts, and four Board of Equalization districts. Five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters sit on the commission, with three votes required from each bloc to approve new maps.

The commission also is accepting written testimony, either by e-mail at; by fax at 916-322-0904; or by mail to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 1130 K St., Suite 101, Sacramento, Ca., 95814.

Comments must be received by Monday to be considered in drawing the preliminary maps. More information can be obtained from the commission's Web site,

April 29, 2011
Columbia Law School draws new California congressional maps

Students at New York City's Columbia Law School have taken a stab at redrawing California's 53 congressional districts to comply with new census data and state and federal guidelines, beating the state's new redistricting commission to the punch.

The 14-member commission is now conducting hearings throughout the state and is due to release preliminary legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district maps in June. As that process continues, a Columbia Law School class taught by redistricting expert Nathaniel Persily delved into California's 53 congressional districts.

The first-ever Columbia effort used what it calls "state-of-the-art software to come up with new district boundaries that reflect changes in demographics, party affiliation and population shifts."

Students Kristine Van Hamersveld and Jessie Riggin said in their narrative report on the project that "California's current congressional districts are, to put it bluntly, messy. They are not compact. They do not respect political subdivision lines nor do they consider communities of interest. When looking at these lines, it is beyond obvious that good government considerations took a backseat to partisan politics. Suffice it to say, it would be difficult to make a plan less respectful of standard redistricting principles."

The current maps were the product of a bipartisan legislative deal aimed at preserving the numerical status quo of the Legislature and the state's congressional delegation. Just one of the state's congressional districts has changed hands in the five election cycles since.

The Columbia plan, among other things expands the number of districts with majorities of Latino voting age residents from 13 to 14, reflecting the strong growth of Latinos in the state during the last decade. The commission's plan is also expected to expand Latino-majority districts in both Congress and the Legislature.

The full Columbia congressional plan can be found here.

April 29, 2011
Senate budget hearing a gerrymanding special

When the state Senate announced the location of today's 1:30 p.m. budget hearing at the Cal Poly Pomona, it was hard for us to tell whose district it was in.

Senate maps show the Pomona campus right on the edge of the dividing line between districts represented by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar.

The location of budget hearings and press conferences has been of great interest because legislative Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown are trying to get their message across in the backyards of GOP lawmakers, who have opposed any more taxes.

For the official answer, we turned to Press Enterprise mapping guru and Capitol Bureau Chief Jim Miller. He determined that, thanks to gerrymandering, the line splits right through the campus.

Based on a campus map and Miller's analysis, it appears the Fruit/Crops Unit, citrus orchards and student housing are in McLeod's district. But the Bronco Student Center where the hearing will take place is in Huff's district. The campus hedged its bets in a press release, noting that the campus was in both of their districts.

"The hearing is in my district," Huff said. "But the actual address and some student housing in Pomona are in her district."

This will likely cease to be an issue when the redistricting commission releases its new preliminary maps in June. Voters handed the commission power to draw state legislative boundaries three years ago with these kinds of mapping peculiarities in mind.

April 6, 2011
Redistricting law firm favored Democrats in campaign giving

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm tentatively chosen by the state's new redistricting commission to provide legal advice on the federal Voting Rights Act, has given most of its campaign contributions to Democrats, a new compilation by found.

Maplight, a Berkeley-based database on campaign contributions at state and federal levels, released its study of the law firm's donations Wednesday, just one day before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is to decide whether to finalize its $150,000 contract.

Gibson, Dunn was tentatively chosen last months after a Sacramento law and lobbying firm with strong Republican ties lost in a preliminary round of voting and then dropped out of the competition.

However, the contract was held up after it was revealed that Gibson, Dunn had made substantial campaign contributions and also was registered as a federal lobbying firm. Republican Party leaders then attacked its selection and that of Q2 Data and Research, a demographic consulting firm, as evidence of a pro-Democrat bias on the commission.

On Wednesday, Maplight provided more fuel for the debate by revealing that since 2003, Gibson, Dunn employees had given $29,700 to legislative candidates since 2003 -- a relatively modest amount -- and that nearly three-quarters went to Democrats. At the federal level, the firm and its employees have contributed $1.2 million to House and Senate candidates, 70 percent of it to Democrats.

March 22, 2011
New state GOP chairman rips redistricting commission

The California Republican Party's new chairman accused the state's independent redistricting commission Tuesday of playing politics in its hiring of a technical consultant to draw legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

Tom Del Beccaro blasted the decision by the commission last Saturday to hire Q2 Data and Research, an Oakland-based firm owned by Karin Mac Donald, director of the state's redistricting database at the University of California, Berkeley.

Q2 drew criticism prior to the commission's vote because Bruce Cain is a partner in the venture. Cain was chief adviser to Assembly Democrats in a highly controversial 1981 redrawing of political districts.

Q2 was selected 13-0 after the other finalist, Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, was disqualified for failure to disclose donors and potential staff conflicts in bid documents.

"The Redistricting Commission's decision to select Q2 Data and Research, a firm widely known for its close political connection to the Democrat Party, to draw district lines defeats the very purpose of the commission's existence," Del Beccaro said in a written statement.

The fledgling redistricting commission was created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008. The measure was pitched as a balanced system for drawing district boundaries in contrast to partisan legislative efforts that created gerrymandered districts in decades past.

"Californians made the right decision to take redistricting power out of the hands of Sacramento politicians and they deserve a process that values openness and transparency," Del Beccaro said.

"The commission was asked by myself and others not to pick that underqualified firm. The decision to hire Q2 may very well undermine the trust of voters in the entire process."

Rose Institute had been accused of being overly partisan, too, but leaning Republican rather than Democratic. The consulting group refuted such allegations in bid documents, characterizing itself as nonpartisan.

Republican Vincent Barabba, a member of the redistricting commission, denied that politics played a role in the selectioin of Q2 and said the 14-member commission -- not Mac Donald or her firm -- ultimately will make the decisions on where political district boundaries will be drawn.

"We'll give very explicit, documented and published directions to the line drawer -- and then the line drawer has to follow those directions," Barabba said.

Democratic Commissioner Cynthia Dai said that Mac Donald was questioned about her ties to Cain and said that his connection to Q2 stemmed largely from a project years ago.

"It seems that the Republican Party and others have tried very hard to try to draw a connection between Q2 Data and Research and the Democratic Party, but as far as we've been able to tell, that simply is not the case," Dai said.

The redistricting commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters. Approval of district maps requires at least three votes from each group.

In a press release announcing Q2's selection, the redistricting commission touted the firm as a "small, non-partisan, woman-owned consulting firm" with "nationally known experts in building redistricting databases."

"The team also includes a Voting Rights Act expert with extensive experience ... and multiple line drawers with hundreds of hours of training and line drawing experience," the press release said.

In hiring Q2, the commission stipulated that Cain could play no role in drawing California's 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district boundaries for 2012 elections.

Mac Donald and Q2's only other full-time professional staffer, Nicole Boyle, are registered as independent voters, bid documents said.

** Updated at 4:55 p.m. to add comments from redistricting commissioners Cynthia Dai and Vincent Barabba.

March 21, 2011
Redistricting panel chooses mapmaker after spirited debate

Resolving one key controversy, California's redistricting commission has selected a mapmaker to help craft 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts that will be carefully analyzed for potential partisan tilt.

Q2 Data and Research, an Oakland-based firm, was selected Saturday for the $510,000 consultant contract by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, an independent panel that is replacing the Legislature in drawing political districts every 10 years.

The Q2 firm is owned by Karin Mac Donald, director of the state's redistricting database at the University of California, Berkeley.

The firm was selected 13-0 after the other finalist, Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, was disqualified for failure to disclose donors and potential staff conflicts in bid documents.

Both firms sparked public debate over whether they would act in a nonpartisan, impartial manner. The redistricting commission spent all day Saturday discussing bids from the two finalists.

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring, in a letter to the redistricting commission, characterized Mac Donald as a protégé of Bruce Cain, who was chief adviser to Assembly Democrats in a highly controversial 1981 redrawing of political districts. Cain also is a partner in the Q2 firm, Nehring noted.

"I believe Bruce Cain's association with Q2 creates the appearance of partiality due to his deep involvement with the 1980s redistricting - an egregious partisan gerrymander," added Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, in a letter to the 14-member redistricting panel.

Cain, in a letter supporting Q2's bid, said that "I am not a party to Karin Mac Donald's bid in any way."

"Even though I have since 1982 worked in nonpartisan redistricting settings for courts, attorney generals, city attorneys and commissions, it makes a great deal of sense for the (redistricting commission) to have a clean break from the past," Cain said. "I am also no longer a California resident."

In approving Q2's contract, the 14-member redistricting panel stipulated that Cain could play no role in drawing district lines. Mac Donald and the firm's only other full-time professional staffer, Nicole Boyle, are registered as independent voters, bid documents said.

Rose Institute, the other top finalist, was accused of being too cozy with Republican Party interests in years past.

""Let's be clear, the Rose Institute is a conservative Republican organization," wrote the California School Employees Association in a letter of opposition.

In its bid documents, the Rose Institute said it has been active since 1981 in providing statewide redistricting information in an "expert, nonpartisan manner to all interested organizations -- including the media -- and individuals."

California Forward, a bipartisan political reform group, warned the redistricting panel last week that it was not likely to satisfy everyone with its selection, no matter which finalist won.

"The reality is that many of the most experienced demographic consultants with redistricting-related experience have worked with, or been affiliated with, or have been hired by individuals with ties to Republicans or Democrats at some stage in their career. This alone should not be grounds for disqualification," the group said.

"With only two applicants for the position of demographic consultant, it may not be possible to avoid frustrating a significant portion of observers with your final decision."

March 18, 2011
Redistricting panel picks legal consultant despite partisan split

California's independent redistricting commission chose a legal firm Friday to advise it on minority voting rights, but only after a partisan deadlock ended with one of two finalists withdrawing.

The winner was Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, an international law firm that made headlines last year for successfully challenging California's ballot measure banning gay marriage.

The $150,000 contract calls for the firm to provide legal advice on drawing legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts in ways that do not dilute minority voting rights.

The 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, created by passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, is replacing the Legislature this year as the entity responsible for setting the state's district boundaries every 10 years.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher was supported Friday by every Democrat, independent and minor-party member of the redistricting panel, but on the first roll-call vote, three of five Republicans voted no -- enough to block hiring the firm.

Voting against Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher were Republicans Peter Yao, Michael Ward and Jodie Filkins Webber.

The deadlock was broken when the other top finalist -- Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni -- withdrew its name from consideration. The commission then voted unanimously for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which has four offices in California.

March 14, 2011
Census data reveal disparities in district populations

Last week's release of detailed data on the 2010 census sets the stage for the new Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw new maps for 120 legislative districts, 53 congressional districts and four Board of Equalization districts to equalize their populations.

The biggest changes will come in districts with the greatest deviation from the ideal populations as calculated on the census total for California and political number-crunchers have already developed spreadsheets laying out the deviations.

In general, urban coastal districts are underpopulated and inland suburban and rural districts are overpopulated, which should lead to a shift of legislative and congressional districts from the coastal counties to inland counties.

One set of spreadsheets comes from the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College. Find it here.

March 8, 2011
Census Bureau releases details on 2010 California count

The U.S. Census Bureau today released detailed data on California that will be used by the state's new independent redistricting commission to draw new legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts for the 2012 elections.

The state's new official 2010 population, 37,263,308, was released in December and is a 10 percent gain over 2000. But details -- including census tract, city and county breakdowns, as well as those of income, ethnicity and other factors -- were not released until today.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission has until August to adopt new districts, replacing those that the Legislature drew in 2001. Widespread criticism of the legislative plan that it was a bipartisan gerrymander that ignored demographic changes, led to the ballot measure that shifted the responsibility to a 14-member commission that was chosen, partially by lot, from more than 30,000 applicants. The commission is composed of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents. A majority of each group was agree to a final plan, which is subject to court challenges.

The new census data are available here.

March 7, 2011
California census data comin'

Get ready for the California redistricting rumble.

On Monday, the Census Bureau announced that it had shipped 2010 Census data to the California
Governor's Office and leadership of the state Legislature. The Census Bureau expects to make the information public Tuesday at about 12:30 p.m. West Coast time, and quite a treasure trove it is.

The Census information will include summaries of population totals, as well as data on race and voting age for multiple geographic divisions with California, including census blocks, tracts, voting districts, cities, counties and school districts. In other words, this is good stuff for those designing the state's next political boundaries.

February 8, 2011
Redistricting panel gets green light on congressional districts

The U.S. Department of Justice has given the green light for California to allow the newly created Citizens Redistricting Commission to shape the state's congressional district lines.

The decennial task of redrawing the map for state legislative and Board of Equalization districts was shifted from the Legislature to the 14-member panel by a successful 2008 ballot measure. Proposition 20, which was approved last November, added congressional districts to the commission's workload.

The Voting Rights Act requires Department of Justice preclearance for certain changes to election laws or processes, including redistricting, in designated areas. Four California counties are subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

"Preclearance has confirmed what we have known all along: that Proposition 20 protects the rights of California voters," Proposition 20 proponent and major funder Charles T. Munger Jr. said in a statement. "Now California can move forward to implement Proposition 20 fully and bring fair elections to California's 53 congressional districts."

February 2, 2011
Hundreds of e-mail addresses mistakenly released by state

Hundreds of business and personal e-mail addresses mistakenly were released by a state aide assisting California's fledgling redistricting commission this week to people who had asked to keep abreast of the panel's developments.

Instead of hiding its distribution list, the commission's communication displayed each e-mail address Tuesday in providing notification of plans to hire a budget officer at a salary range of $4,424 to $5,339 per month.

Commission Executive Director Dan Claypool said the error was made by the secretary of state's office, which is assisting the redistricting panel until it can finish hiring staff.

The new 14-member citizens commission, created by passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, is responsible for determining legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district boundaries by Aug. 15.

About 700 personal and business e-mail addresses were on the panel's distribution list, which did not contain other personal information except that first and last names were elements of some e-mail addresses.

The secretary of state's office sent a written apology today to those affected by the mistake.

"The e-mail was a clerical error by someone who was substituting for the regular staffer who sends e-mails," the prepared statement said.

"(California Redistricting Commission) staff will make sure to send all future e-mails with hidden e-mail addresses."

** Amended at 5 p.m. to clarify that the secretary of state's office made the error in its capacity as temporary staff for the redistricting commission.

January 28, 2011
Replacement picked for redistricting panel

California's new redistricting commission was made whole Friday when Angelo Ancheta was chosen from six other Democratic candidates to replace a member who resigned earlier this month.

Ancheta, a San Francisco resident, is a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. He has taught classes and conducted research in constitutional rights, voting rights and election law.

Ancheta will fill a seat left vacant by Democrat Elaine Kuo, who resigned Jan. 14, citing "personal issues" that arose recently and unexpectedly. The Mountain View resident did not elaborate.

The 14-member redistricting commission, approved by passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, is responsible for drawing legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts by Aug. 15.

The panel must consist of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party voters.

With Ancheta's selection, the panel now consists of four Asian Americans, three Caucasians, three Hispanic or Latino members, two African Americans, one Pacific Islander, and one from the category of American Indian or Alaska native.

Ancheta is the second commissioner from San Francisco County. Four commissioners are from Los Angeles and one apiece are from Yolo, San Joaquin, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Alameda, Ventura and Santa Cruz counties.

January 18, 2011
Seven Democrats contend for remap panel

Seven Democrats suddenly are in the running to become members of California's first-ever redistricting panel following Friday's surprise resignation of Commissioner Elaine Kuo.

Contenders are Victoria Aguayo Schupbach and Maria Harris of Los Angeles County, Tangerine Brigham and Brightstar Ohlson of Alameda County, Angelo Ancheta of San Francisco County, Lillian Judd of San Luis Obispo County, and Ann Marie (Amber) Machamer of Santa Clara County.

The seven represent the remaining Democratic finalists from what once was a 12-person pool of party applicants who survived a screening process by a panel of state auditors and a limited number of cuts by legislative leaders. Kuo and four others previously had been selected to the commission.

By law, the redistricting panel must consist of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party voters to draw boundary lines for legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts after the federal census every 10 years.

Kuo, a Mountain View resident, cited time constraints for resigning Friday during a board meeting in which the nascent commission picked an executive director, Daniel Claypool, from a field of 29 applicants. The panel is required to complete its map-drawing by Aug. 15.

Proposition 11, passed by voters in 2008, provides the following directions for filling a commission vacancy:

"Any vacancy, whether created by removal, resignation or absence, in the 14 commission positions shall be filled within the 30 days after the vacancy occurs, from the pool of applicants of the same voter registration category as the vacating nominee that was remaining as of November 20 in the year in which that pool was established.

"If none of those remaining applicants are available for service, the state auditor shall fill the vacancy from a new pool created for the same voter registration category."

Kuo's resignation leaves four Democrats remaining as commissioners: Cynthia Dai of San Francisco County, Jeanne Raya of Los Angeles County, Gabino Aguirre of Ventura County; and Maria Blanco, who recently moved from Contra Costa to Los Angeles County.

December 21, 2010
California's congressional delegation won't grow

From Michael Doyle in Washington, D. C.

California's congressional delegation will remain the same size while Texas and Florida will bulk up, under final 2010 census results released Tuesday morning.

California will retain its current 53 House seats for the coming decade. Along with every other state, California will also keep two senators.

Reapportionment following the 2010 census still leaves California with the largest delegation in the 435-member House of Representatives. As the nation's population grew 9.7 percent to 308,745,538 though, the overall balance shifted across the country.

"This is really an important day for the American people," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at the National Press Club. "Much is riding on the results."

All told, 18 states will either gain or lose House seats, while 32 states will stay the same
The 2010 census marks the first time since 1920 that California has not gained at least one House seat following a census. No House seats were reapportioned for any state following the 1920 census. More broadly, it marks a continued population tilt away from Rust Belt states into the Sun Belt.

The new population count, for instance, will increase the Texas congressional delegation to 36, up from the current 32. That will almost certainly boost House Republicans after the 2012 election, as the GOP already controls the state legislature in the heavily Republican state.

Florida will now have 27 seats, up from the current 25. As in Texas, Republicans control the Florida legislature that will draw the new House district lines.

"We see a continuation of a decades-long growth in the southern regions," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

December 15, 2010
Final six members selected for state's redistricting commission

Call it the end -- of the beginning.

The final six members of California's first-ever independent citizens redistricting commission were selected today, paving the way for the panel to begin its task of drawing the state's legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

Members chosen today were Democrats Gabino Aguirre and Maria Blanco, Republicans Gil Ontai and Michael Ward, and two people not affiliated with either party -- Michelle DiGuilio-Matz and M. Andre Parvenu.

The selections were made by eight sitting members of the commission who were selected in a lottery-type drawing Nov. 18 from 36 finalists culled from a field of about 30,000 applicants. The six new members were nominated as a slate last Friday, but a final vote was withheld until today to accept public comment.

The only dispute today, consuming about an hour of debate, was whether to alter the proposed slate to add Paul McKaskle, who served as chief counsel for special masters appointed by the state Supreme Court to draw boundary lines in 1973 and 1991, after state lawmakers and the governor reached impasse those years.

November 30, 2010
Independent redistricting commission begins its work

California's new commission to redraw congressional and legislative districts began its work Tuesday - and its first job is to choose six more members.

The eight members drawn by lot from 36 finalists must choose six more members from the remaining 28 and also must bring more gender, ethnic and geographic balance to the commission's makeup.

Peter Yao, a Republican and former mayor of Claremont, was elected temporary chairman during the commission's first meeting in a high-rise office building five blocks from the Capitol, and Democrat Cynthia Dai of San Francisco was elected vice-chairman.

Tao and Dai are two of the initial panel's four Asian-American members, which is one imbalance the remaining choices must correct to meet the criteria of the 2008 ballot measure, Proposition 11, that created the commission.

One or two of the additional commissioners would have to be Latino. Arithmetically, the panel is short on white men and representatives from Southern California and large cities.

The additional members must be chosen by the end of the year, although they are expected to be named this week. Once the commission receives data from the 2010 census, it will draw 120 new legislative districts, four new Board of Equalization districts and, in accordance with Proposition 20, passed on Nov. 2, new districts for the state's congressional members. There are 53 of the latter now, but that number could rise, drop or remain the same, depending on nationwide census results.

The new districts, assuming they are not blocked by the courts, would take effect for the 2012 elections. Proponents of the commission, formally known as the Citizens Redistricting Commission, say it will end incumbent-friendly gerrymanders and bring more ideological balance to the Legislature and the congressional delegation, both of which are now dominated by conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

November 17, 2010
3.2 million combinations in redistricting panel drawing

Eight names will be drawn at random Thursday from a pool of 36 finalists for positions on the state's new redistricting commission, and a Santa Monica College political science professor has calculated that there are 3.2 million possible combinations.

What's more, Dr. Brian Lawson has figured the chances of names being drawn by gender, county of residence, income, ethnicity and what he calls being "incumbent friendly," basing his calculations on the detailed profiles of each finalist available on the Internet. He sees 11 of the 36 being "incumbent friendly" due to experience with redistricting and government, and names them in his report.

The state auditor's office will draw the eight names Thursday morning. Those eight will then choose the other six panelists from the remaining pool by the end of the year. The final commission will consist of five Democrats, five Republicans and four who are either independents or minor party registrants.

If Lawson's calculations become reality, the eight names drawn Thursday will have more women than men, more incumbent-unfriendly members than not, more Latinos than members of any other ethnicity, more members with incomes in the $125,000-$250,000 range than any other, and more members (2) from Los Angeles than any other county.

Once chosen, the full commission will redraw 80 Assembly districts, 40 state Senate districts, four Board of Equalization districts and new districts for the state's congressional delegation, whose size (now 53) will be determined from 2010 census data.

It's a new process, born of voter approval of Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 this month, the latter adding congressional districts to the commission's authority. And whatever the commission decrees could be subject to court battles thereafter.

Details of Lawson's exercise can be found here.

November 12, 2010
Citizens Redistricting Commission pared to 36 finalists

The list of potential members of the state's new Citizens Redistricting Commission was pared down to 36 finalists Friday as legislative leaders exercised their secret vetoes -- and it includes an expert who devised two court-ordered redistricting plans and a former legislative budget analyst.

The four Democratic and Republican legislative leaders were empowered to knock off as many as 24 of the 60 semi-finalists without explanation or revealing who axed whom, similar to lawyers' preemptory challenges of potential jurors in a trial.

The 36 finalists -- 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and 12 either independents or minor party registrants -- represent a broad demographic and geographic swath of the state, with a third coming from coastal Southern California. Los Angeles County has the largest potential representation of any county with nine members.

Law professor Paul McKaskle was the chief consultant for the two Supreme Court redistricting plans and was on the list of 20 independents and minor party registrants that went to legislative leaders and survived the cut, as did William Hamm, who was once the Legislature's budget analyst and is now a private economic consultant.

Next Thursday, the state auditor's office will draw eight names from the 36 finalists at random. The eight must be three Democrats, three Republicans and two either independents or minor party registrants. Then those eight will select six more members from the remaining pool by the end of the year to complete the panel. The complex selection process began with nearly 31,000 applicants.

The 14-member commission must consist of five Democrats, five Republicans and four who are either independents or minor party registrants. It is supposed to be balanced by gender, ethnicity and region.

It will use 2010 census data to draw 80 Assembly districts, 40 Senate districts, four Board of Equalization districts and -- thanks to the passage of Proposition 20 -- new districts for California's congressional delegation. There are 53 congressional districts now, but that could change, up or down, after final census data are compiled.

It will take nine votes on the commission to pass any plan. The commission, created by 2008's Proposition 11, takes over the redistricting job from the Legislature and, in some years, from the courts. The Legislature did the job after the 1980 and 2000 censuses, but the state Supreme Court did it due to a political deadlock after the 1970 and 1990 censuses.

Widespread criticism of the last plan, adopted in 2001, as a bipartisan gerrymander meant to eliminate partisan competition for seats led to Proposition 11, which was sponsored by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a coalition of political reform groups. This month, voters not only expanded the commission's authority to congressional seats via Proposition 20 but defeated another measure, Proposition 27, that would have returned redistricting power to the Legislature.

The full list of finalists is available here. Their detailed biographies can be found here.

October 21, 2010
Redistricting commission could have redistricting expert

Some critics of the independent commission that's being formed to redraw districts for state legislators and members of the Board of Equalization have questioned whether it would have enough knowledge of the arcane process to do the job.

The answer may depend on whether Paul McKaskle, one of the 60 finalists for the Citizens Redistricting Commission, survives the remainder of the selection process, which includes peremptory challenges by legislative leaders.

McKaskle, a long-time law professor, was chief counsel to the Supreme Court masters who were appointed after the 1970 and 1990 censuses to redraw legislative and congressional maps after redistricting plans stalled in the Legislature. In both cases, a Republican governor (Ronald Reagan and later Pete Wilson) and a Democratic Legislature were at loggerheads.

One of McKaskle's letters of recommendation, in fact, is from Eugene Lee, a veteran political science professor at UC-Berkeley who was the chief technician in both of those court-ordered redistricting plans.

Together, McKaskle and Lee created districts under which Democrats made major gains in the 1970s and Republicans increased their numbers in the 1990s. While both were subject to partisan carping at the time, redistricting scholars generally have concluded that neither plan was drawn to help either party and the results were largely determined by other factors.

McKaskle, a political independent, also has been a consultant on local government redistricting and has written extensively on the subject. But whether the Legislature's leadership would want to have such a recognized expert on the commission remains uncertain.


Capitol Alert Staff

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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