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California’s redistricting panel flooded with applications

A map showing cities in a swath of northern California. (Photo: BestStockFoto, via Shutterstock.

More than 7,100 people have applied to be on California’s independent redistricting commission, the 14-member panel that will draw new political boundaries based on population counts from the 2020 census.

State Auditor Elaine Howle’s office said Tuesday that of the large applicant pool, about 6,000 were tentatively eligible. The voter-created commission will draw 120 districts for the Legislature, 53 districts for California’s congressional delegation and the four districts of the state Board of Equalization.

Long a process controlled by the Legislature’s ruling party, voters approved setting up an independent panel to draw the lines.

According to the auditor’s demographic data, about 50% of the applicants were Democrats, 29% were Republicans, 60% were male and 39% were female. Some 68% were white and 40% were from the southern coastal region of California.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission is an independent body charged with redrawing the boundaries for congressional, state Senate, state Assembly and Board of Equalization districts. The commission is created every ten years and uses the U.S. Census data that will be released next April 1. The first commission, established for the 2010 census, remains in effect until the new commission is established over the next few months.

The 2020 commission will have 14 members — five Democrats, five Republicans, and four who are not affiliated with a political party and who have registered with no party preference. The application period for the 2020 Citizens Redistricting Commission, which began June 10, will conclude on Aug. 9.

Redistricting is one of the mostly deeply political activities in government. Long a process controlled by the Legislature’s ruling party, voters approved setting up an independent panel to draw the lines. Proposition 11 was approved in 2008 to draw legislative boundaries, and two years later voters approved Proposition 20 to extend that authority to congressional districts.

A recent  U.S. Supreme Court ruling targeted redistricting, although its impact on California is likely to be negligible.

In a 5-4 decision, the nine-member court ruled that federal judges cannot stop politicians from drawing districts that allow for partisan gerrymandering. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties.” Roberts did not opine on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

California’s redistricting commission seeks to prevent such gerrymandering by having citizens rather than elected officials draw district lines.

Under the voter-approved redistricting law, Howle is charged with the complex logistics of establishing the commission, including vetting the applicants. Her office does not have a role in drawing the maps.

“These applicants are making a choice — to ensure their community has a voice in the next redistricting process. We encourage all Californians to apply for this once in a decade opportunity, and be a part of the team that will be drawing new political districts that define where our congressional and state representatives come from,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Updates lede and 2nd graf with latest numbers released Tuesday; deletes dated material. Joaquin Romero is a Capitol Weekly intern from UC Riverside.


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