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State Supreme Court rejects GOP’s challenge to Senate maps

A Republican-backed attempt to dismantle state Senate political boundaries was rejected Friday by the state Supreme Court, which said the new districts were “clearly the most appropriate” to be used in the 2012 elections.

The high court also noted that even if the GOP’s looming referendum to overturn the districts qualifies for the ballot, the districts should be used in for the June primary and the November general elections.

The districts were drawn by a voter-approved independent commission. Prior to the creation of the commission, legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts were drawn by the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, a process that Republicans said was unfair.

Party leaders have long opposed relinquishing the authority to draw the boundaries, but voters disagreed, and in two elections approved turning the chore over to an independent panel — first to handle legislative and Board of Equalization seats and second to include congressional districts. By law, the electoral boundaries are redrawn once a decade to account for changes population.

The court agreed with the voters, saying that the “commission’s certified map is clearly the most appropriate map to be used in the 2012 state Senate elections even if the proposed referendum qualifies for the ballot.”

The referendum seeks to toss out the existing Senate maps. Republicans sought to block the use of the new boundaries until voters had a chance to decide the referendum, which as yet has not qualified for the ballot.

But the court noted that even if voters the referendum qualifies, the existing Senate map “should be used on an interim basis for the June and November 2012 elections.” If the referendum is approved, it would apply to future elections.

Republicans have turned in more than 711,000 signatures on petitions to overturn the Senate maps. They need nearly 505,000 to qualify the referendum for the ballot.

 

California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said the court’s decision “undermined the referendum process in California. The voters clearly voted to “stay” the use of the lines if a sufficient number of signatures were submitted.”


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