Capitol Alert

California’s political map panel seeks some changes

In November 2010, state Auditor Elaine Howle reads the name of the first person selected to be a member of the state’s first Citizens Redistricting Commission. The panel’s members have suggested changes to help future panels.
In November 2010, state Auditor Elaine Howle reads the name of the first person selected to be a member of the state’s first Citizens Redistricting Commission. The panel’s members have suggested changes to help future panels. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The redrawing of California’s political boundaries is still five years off, but members of the panel that crafted the current lines have put forward suggestions for their successors who will produce the next ones.

The voter-approved Citizens Redistricting Commission, which has met infrequently since it produced new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts following the 2010 census, discussed ways to improve the remapping process during a teleconference last month.

The overall theme: The 14 future redistricting commissioners who draw the state’s next districts after the 2020 census need more time, money and training to get up to speed on California’s complex redistricting process and the many issues that come into play, from litigation and state hiring rules to voting rights laws and demographic data.

Members of the current commission “were asked to take a leap of faith to simultaneously design, build, and maintain the organization after takeoff!” read the report discussed July 27.

California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2011 drew maps for 53 congressional districts, 40 state Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts, and 4 Board of Equalization districts

Among the report’s recommendations:

Legislature: The next commission should do more to improve its standing in the Legislature, which had line-drawing power before voters approved independent redistricting in 2008 and 2010. The Legislature exercised “the power of the purse” and used it “to whittle away at various CRC recommendations,” according to the panel’s report.

More data: The current panel “strongly suggests” that the next one hire more staff and analysts to work with the terabytes of data available about state geography, economy, ethnicity and other income. They also need more training on social media and a “focused effort” to engage.

Litigation: The future panel needs more money for court fights, such as the 2011 lawsuit by some Republican lawmakers challenging the state Senate map. A “lack of an adequate funding scheme almost left the Commission without legal representation when it was challenged in the State Supreme Court,” the report said.

Leadership: There needs to be process in place for rotating chairs “to guard against one particular individual or faction usurping the process.”

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