It’s Redistricting Day!

Redistricting Commission votes on final maps today

by Brian Leubitz

“Paying off” is really a loaded phrase.  Sure, the redistricting commission has done a ton of work, and they deserve rich praise for that.  But, as noted last week, it is something of a fool’s errand. The districts are too large, and so they are constantly fighting competing interests that ensure few will be really satisfied when the time comes. But, today is the day when the work of the Commission will “pay off.”

Be that as it may, today is the day that the Commission will vote on its final maps.  They have already tentatively approved the last visualization, and it appears that they have the votes for passage.  However, over the last few days, they have been receiving testimony of disgruntled groups.  Some are more serious than others.  Notably, MALDEF has suggest rejection of these maps because they underrepresent the Latino community.  Many other localized, and valid, concerns have been raised.  But, the feeling from the meetings is that the Commissioners feel that this is the best they could do.

The GOP has been putting public pressure on one of the 3 supportive Republicans to change their vote, but that seems unlikely.  If it is approved, expect to see the GOP quickly file papers for a referendum.  They are terrified that they might lose their superminority in one or both houses of the Legislature.  However, whether they have the money is seriously in doubt.  As of last reports, they had less than a quarter of a million dollars in the bank.  That’s not enough to throw a good party, let alone put a measure on the ballot.

But at some level, there has to be a sense of fatalism to the complaints:

If it’s all just grumbling, then perhaps the lessons of this redistricting process — the first of its kind in California — will improve future efforts. The ultimate reality of redistricting is that the lines have to go somewhere; but keeping the criticism at a low level will no doubt help remind voters why they chose the new system in the first place.(John Myers)

With lines that nearly touch a million, there are going to be some very tough choices.  That is inevitable.  And people will be disappointed.  Peter Schrag, in a brilliant column, over at the California Progress Report points out that pretty much everybody is going to be disappointed in one way or another.  And, despite the potential for Democrats to take 2/3 majorities in each House, it may not be enough:

But maybe the biggest frustrated expectation in this set of political reforms could be the hope of the left that Democrats may at last get the two or three additional seats in each house to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to raise taxes without Republican votes.

Democrats may get the seats, but don’t count on the votes. The Republican minority, in rigidly blocking any road to tax increases or, as this year, even a ballot measure giving voters a chance to extend the expiring taxes that the legislature itself approved in prior years, also protected Democrats from the voter backlash against the tax increases that they might have voted for. California Democrats have also voted for corporate tax loopholes.

If any new competitive districts produce those marginal Democrats, how eager will they be to vote for boosts in the vehicle license fee, the sales tax, or the gas tax? How willing would Gov. Jerry Brown be to sign such tax increases? In his last terms as governor his austere heart was always in thinking small for an era of limits. He stiffed the universities and never trusted big institutions.(Peter Schrag)

But for today, let’s keep an eye on the Redistricting Commission.  They are likely to get a few legal challenges, and perhaps that referendum.  However, the redistricting task is a huge one, and they’ve done their best in a thoughtful process.  You can watch the meetings live at their website and check out the maps here.  The meeting is today at 9AM in Room 4203 of the State Capitol.

4 thoughts on “It’s Redistricting Day!”

  1. “In my opinion, the Commission failed to fulfill its mandate to strictly apply the Constitutional criteria and consistently applied race and community of interest criteria, and sought to diminish dissenting viewpoints.”

    This was Commissioner Ward’s only criticism of the plan as he took his lone descenting vote on July 29th.  At the press conference today he was asked to explain his vote and he declined by saying that he had previously explained his vote and would not comment further.

    Then the Chair praised the transparent nature of the proceedings.  

    OK.  I’m a little confused.  If he has a problem with the lines, tell us what the problems are.  I can’t stand it when citizens have to guess what decision makers are thinking.  I might agree.  I might not.  But don’t keep us guessing.

  2. Republicans are planning a ballot initiative to overturn the districts drawn by the commission.  I kid you not.

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