The California State Auditor. Redistricting. Who would’ve thought that there would ever be some kind of connection? Certainly not us … but, then came the 2008 general election and the voters thought differently when they approved Proposition 11 (the Voters FIRST Act). This new law shifts the responsibility for drawing California’s Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization district lines from the Legislature to a new, independent 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission … and the responsibility of implementing an application and selection process for creating the Commission? That would be none other than the California State Auditor’s office. Adopting regulations, establishing processes, creating educational material, conducting outreach to seek out eligible applicants, creating an application database system, and carrying out the application and selection process – it’s a responsibility that my staff and I have taken on with earnestness and dedication; to be non-partisan, objective, transparent, and mindful of the demographic dynamics that are unique to California.
From drafting regulations to selecting the commissioners, we set out to create an open, transparent process just as the voters called upon in approving the Voters FIRST Act. We created a dedicated website – WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov – that has served as the “go-to” place for any information the public wants: from learning about the initiative to providing public comments on regulations or applicants or watching the public meetings.
Last summer we began spreading the word across California about the opportunity to serve on the Commission, asking registered voters to step up and volunteer to try and qualify to become one of the 14 members. We canvassed the state, speaking to political, community and voters’ rights groups, and non-profit organizations, and conducting interviews with television, radio and print media about how important it is for ALL Californians to have a proverbial “place at the table” on this Commission. Among the other outreach tools, the website provided up-to-date information regarding the process and where potential applicants were directed to apply on-line. In short, we made every effort to not only make Californians aware of what historical changes were set to occur in the redistricting process, but to make sure they knew about the process as it unfolded … with the hope they would consider participating and making a little history themselves.
From the outset, we never imagined the tremendous response we would receive from prospective applicants from all over the state – in the eight weeks that the initial application process remained open, more than 30,000 registered voters came forward to apply for one of the 14 seats on the Commission. Of these, nearly 4,500 continued in the process by submitting a supplemental application and three letters of recommendation.
Once the supplemental applications and letters of recommendation were collected, our three-member Applicant Review Panel began the intricate and dutiful process of screening each completed application, and ultimately creating the current pool of 120 applicants. The Panel is in the midst of interviewing these 120 applicants in order to narrow the applicant pool to 60 of the most qualified applicants – 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and 20 that are either decline-to-state or are registered with another party. Consistent with the law and regulations, all interviews are open to the public. You can watch the interviews online, either live or at your convenience, using the videos posted after the interviews are completed, or read the transcripts.
The Panel will narrow the applicant pool to 60, and by Oct. 1, 2010, we will submit the list of names to the California State Legislature. Legislative leadership can eliminate up to 24 names from the list. From the applicants that remain, I will randomly draw the names of the first eight commissioners. Those eight commissioners will then select the remaining six to form the final 14-member Commission – five Republicans, five Democrats and four members that are registered as decline-to-state or with another party.
At that point … the TRUE history making will commence. Californians will have the opportunity to make redistricting decisions on behalf of ALL citizens, through this first Citizens Redistricting Commission.
My office is dedicated to carrying out our responsibilities with the utmost thoroughness, transparency, and integrity in creating the Commission. We are extremely pleased to see the number of people that stepped forward and applied to serve on the Commission and with the caliber and qualifications of the applicants who are being interviewed. The enthusiastic and responsive public participation and feedback has been a key element of this process.
And, may that public participation never cease! Because, it’s YOUR Commission! By accessing the Commission website – www.WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov – any interested person can review the applications, details related to the applicant review panel, public meetings, etc., and can submit a public comment! We welcome any questions and comments the public may continue to have as the process of creating the Commission continues.