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California’s Redistricting Commission: Citizens respond to direct democracy

In response to Steve Maviglio’s “Redistricting: An expensive experiment gone wrong” (Capitol Weekly, March 4), let’s set the record straight about the recent effort to let Californians know about the opportunity to be part of the first citizens redistricting commission.

Although my office didn’t seek this new responsibility—conducting outreach and implementing an application and selection process for the commission — I recognize that voters have entrusted my office with this role, and my staff and I are committed to carrying it out with the same diligence, objectivity, and independence as we do in all our work. Throughout this process, my office has continued to carry out our many other responsibilities — financial and performance audits; federal compliance audits and Recovery Act oversight; and investigations.  

In reference to the alleged “multimillion dollar experiment with a 100 percent budget cost overrun,” thus far, my office has only received $580,000 in funding from the Legislature to conduct outreach efforts and implement the application and selection process to establish the commission.  To conduct a comprehensive statewide outreach effort (total outreach contract was $1.3 million), I supplemented the funding out of my office’s budget.  I did not ask the Legislature to double the original appropriation for funding the project to $6 million as Maviglio stated.  

Although we did not conduct barbershop and beauty salon outreach as Maviglio stated, here’s what the citizens got in return:
• A website – WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov – visited by tens of thousands of citizens who wanted to learn about the commission and decide whether or not to apply;

• Two weeks of highly effective radio advertising in every market in the state, in English and Spanish. Thanks to some hard bargaining, we received twice the airplay for the radio advertising budget – doubling the value of our purchase;  

• A statewide outreach effort to California’s print, electronic and online media organizations – including advertising in many of the publications serving our state’s ethnic readers; and  

• During the course of our outreach effort, we accepted invitations to discuss this opportunity with Californians in their communities, from San Diego to Redding.  We worked with a variety of organizations and reached out to community leaders (including the Legislature) to spread the word.  

All of the above outreach efforts were strategically planned and nothing was “last minute.”

I extended the application deadline by four days last month due to a surge in applications when our radio ads began and I am glad that approximately 4,000 individuals had a chance to throw their hats in the ring in those four additional days. In the end, over 30,000 applied for one of the 14 seats on the commission.

This enormous pool of applicants is reflective of California’s diverse electorate.  We received over 3,500 applications from Latinos, 2,500 from African Americans and 1,500 from Asians and Pacific Islanders, and many others.  Our job is to identify 60 of the most qualified applicants and I’m confident that we will have a pool of 60 that reflects California’s richness and diversity.

What’s next? A three-member panel of auditors from my office will screen the applications to create a final pool from which the members of the commission will ultimately be drawn.  Applicants do not need to provide a Form 700 right now, as Maviglio stated—eventually, approximately 200 applicants will be required to identify any conflicts.

And the three auditors won’t be working in a “back room”. They’ll continue to be part of the most open and transparent redistricting process in California’s history.  In fact, we had over 50 members of the public attend the first panel meeting on Feb. 25, 2010.  All of the panel meetings must be open to the public.  We will continue to post the information on the Web site and invite everyone to participate either by attending the meetings, watching as the meetings are live-streamed, or reading the transcripts we will post on the Web site.  When the pool is narrowed to 60 of the most qualified applicants, legislative leaders may strike up to 24 names.

If you know one of the applicants, send us a public comment through our electronic form on line.  We will be validating information applicants submit throughout the process—we want your input!  

Visit our site—WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov—and participate in this historic process.


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