Are Lawmakers Planning Redistricting Commission Lawsuit?
Unsuccessful in convincing voters to eliminate a commission charged with drawing new legislative and congressional districts lines, lawmakers appear to be preparing to mount a legal challenge.
The authority of the 14-member citizens commission, which was created by Proposition 11 on the November 2008 ballot, was expanded to include congressional districts by Proposition 20, approved by voters November 2. Proposition 27, a rival measure placed on the ballot by California’s congressional delegation, would have eliminated the commission. Voters rejected it.
However, recent actions by the state’s four legislative in shaping the potential composition of the commission suggest a future lawsuit challenging the commission’s legality.
Maintaining control over drawing their own district lines is one of the few issues on which Republicans and Democrats are united.
The most likely legal attack would be that the commission violates either or both the federal Voting Rights Act or California’s Voting Rights Act by “disenfranchising” a class of voters.
Under the terms of Proposition 11, the two Republican and two Democratic leaders of the Senate and the Assembly are allowed to reject four each of the pool of 60 possible commission members presented to them by State Auditor Elaine Howle.
The four submitted a joint list of 24 names they wanted removed, including all potential appointees from Los Angeles, by far the largest city in the state with roughly 10 percent of its population.
“The mayor is obviously concerned that no one from the city of Los Angeles — the largest city in the state of California — is on the commission, as it should be a balanced representation of the state population,” said Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a November 16 Los Angeles Times article.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Los Angeles Democrat, also expressed disappointment despite his participation in reducing the list of 60 names to 36.
A logical legal argument would be that voters of Los Angeles are somehow “disenfranchised” by not having representation on the commission.
Howle selected the first eight members of the commission November 18 at random from the remaining 36 names.
Those eight pick the final six members of the commission by December 31.
A true experiment in direct democracy, the commission garnered 31,000 applications by the cut-off date of February 16, 2010.
Of the initial applicants, more than 21,500 were white — over 15,000 of them male. Some 12,700 Democrats applied, 12,000 Republicans and 4,500 decline-to-state voters.
Nearly 21,000 of the 31,000 came either from the Bay Area or the greater Los Angeles area.
Personal interviews were conducted with nearly 120 of the most qualified candidates as were background checks using information culled from numerous sources including Google, opensecrets.org, Huffingtonpost.com, newsmeat.com and the state library, among others.
Sixty – 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans and 20 of other or no party affiliation – were selected from that group and sent to the legislative leaders.
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