News & Updates - California’s independent redistricting panel is at risk

California’s independent redistricting panel is at risk

By Rob Lapsley, The Orange County Register, May 1, 2015
Last November, California elected many new legislators due in large part to California’s independent redistricting commission and its creation of competitive districts, resulting in legislators who will be more accountable to their constituents.

As a result of Proposition 11 in 2008 and Prop. 20 in 2010, California politicians can no longer draw their own legislative or congressional districts, which in the past has virtually guaranteed re-election. This new accountability has created a powerful incentive for legislators to work together to deliver for their district and not just for themselves.

But the tremendous success of California’s independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is under threat. Like California, Arizona voters used their initiative process to authorize state and congressional redistricting by an independent commission. And now, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on a lawsuit that contends the Constitution permits only legislative bodies, not independent commissions, to draw congressional districts.

If Arizona’s commission is found unconstitutional, the Legislature could try to redraw new congressional boundaries before 2016 and again after 2020, following the new census. While new lines are usually drawn every 10 years following the decennial census, a Supreme Court decision could trigger a new redistricting before the 10 years are up – creating an opportunity for partisan mischief that politicians love to play.

If the court determines that Arizona’s commission violates the U.S. Constitution, it could turn back the clock for California and with it all the progress our independent redistricting commission has made.

That is why the California Business Roundtable, the California Chamber of Commerce and a broad bipartisan group of organizations such as California Common Cause, AARP, National Federation of Independent Business, NAACP and others came together to strongly support these reform initiatives in 2008 through today. And these reforms are even more important today as nonpartisan No Party Preference voters are now more than 23 percent of California’s 17.7 million registered voters.

Should a court ruling threaten the California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission process and the current congressional districts, the Legislature should immediately honor and reflect the will of state voters by reaffirming the existing congressional districts for the remainder of this decade.

Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon has publicly indicated that he would respect the work of the commission by not playing politics with the potential Supreme Court decision. However, Californians must also make their voices heard to their legislators that we must keep the power to draw congressional districts in the hands of California’s independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and, should the need arise, have our current districts upheld by the Legislature.
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