CA Supreme Court to Decide Senate Maps Today

Court must decide how they want to intervene with impending referendum possible in June

by Brian Leubitz

UPDATE: Here is the decision in PDF.  Basically the Court opted for the suggestion that I believe was made by Justice Liu to use the Commission’s maps on an interim basis if the referendum does succeed in getting on the ballot. At the hearing, Justice Liu noted that it was at the very least one way of meeting all the goals of redistricting initiative.  So, on that, we now know the maps we’ll be voting on in June and November. More in a bit.

At the beginning of the month, the courts held a hearing on what do about the Senate maps.  As you may recall, the Republicans spent a bunch of money, mostly from Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph, to gather signatures to put the Senate map to a referendum.  You see, the maps present something of an existential crisis for the Senate Republican caucus.  While it isn’t a sure thing that Democrats will exceed the necessary 27 Senators to attain 2/3 in the Senate, the new map presents an exceedingly good opportunity to do so.  Heck, Sam Blakeslee has already said he wouldn’t run again unless his district changes. After that, you basically only need to pick up one more seat from 2 or 3 lean-Dem opportunities.

And dipping below 1/3 of the Senate would basically mean that the swing vote would no longer be a Republican, but a conservative Democrat. It is a prospect that would dry up funding from lobbyists, as who really wants to lobby an irrelevant politician? Whatever power they do have through the supermajority revenue measure would do little for them. They claim they gathered sufficient signatures, but that is far from clear.  As of right now, the status of the initiative is that it had enough signatures to not be bounced at the random check stage, but not enough that it didn’t have to get a more thorough check.  The more thorough check won’t be decided until mid to late February.

The problem with that is that it would leave precious little time to come up with some other map to vote on for the June “primary” election. The Supreme Court’s hearing thus addressed which of many map options they could use, what the meaning of “likely to qualify” is, and whether they could use the Commission’s map instead of drawing their own.  

The decision is expected at 10AM today, and will be published on the Court’s website.  You can also find the video of the oral hearing here.