Well, here we go. The Redistricting Commission chose its final members from among the remaining applicant pool. The result is a commission that is sort of diverse and sort of represents the regions of the state, as the Sacramento Bee reports:
After selection of the final six, the panel consists of four Asian Americans, three Caucasians, three Hispanics or Latinos, two African Americans, one Pacific Islander and one American Indian.
Four are from Los Angeles County, with one apiece from San Francisco, Yolo, San Diego, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Orange, Santa Clara, Ventura, Riverside and San Joaquin counties.
The Central Valley has only two representatives on the commission, and one of them – Michelle DiGiulio-Matz – was the subject of a motion for removal yesterday, as part of an effort to include Paul McKaskle of Berkeley, who was the chief adviser to the California Supreme Court when the court drew the lines after the 1970 and 1990 censuses. DiGiulio-Matz was kept because the rest of the commission realized cutting the Valley out any further would be a real disaster.
As Dan Walters writes, that left Democrat Maria Blanco as the only commission member with redistricting experience. Having Blanco on the commission is a real victory for progressives – Blanco, who currently heads UC Berkeley law school’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity, was once senior counsel at MALDEF and has extensive experience with redistricting issues.
Walters didn’t seem too happy with Blanco being on the commission, calling her “scarcely a neutral in California redistricting wars.” But what does that mean, exactly? Blanco’s emphasis would likely be on ensuring new districts are drawn to ensure fair representation for all Californians, especially communities of color. There’s no reason to believe she’d be a partisan hack; she does not strike me as someone who believes her job is to do the Democratic Party’s bidding. Her presence on the commission is one of the few good things about this otherwise absurd exercise.
And let’s have no doubt that it is absurd. Republicans have won the biggest victory of all, getting an equal representation that they simply do not deserve and have not earned. If the commission’s composition were reflective of the state’s registration numbers, Republicans would have fewer seats than Democrats.
It’s still far from clear that this commission was even necessary – while some districts will change their shape, the overall outcomes will be broadly similar, with Democrats winning and Republicans losing. It is possible that some Republican extremists will find their seats less safe than before, but because of the dynamics within that party, it’s unlikely that it would moderate them in any meaningful way. The commission’s first proposal is due in August 2011 and the final proposal in December 2011, so we’ll see what comes of this.