“The world is literally going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”
— Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez (AOC to her fans)
“Trump is guilty of text-book treason.”
— UC Berkeley Political Science Professor M. Steven Fish
“But I do look forward to game days, partying…I don’t really care about school as you guys know.”
— Olivia Jade’s comments to her 2 million Twitter fans on entering USC
“The Jexodus movement encourages Jewish people to leave the Democratic Party.”
— Donald J. Trump tweet
“We’ve agreed to work together in harmony on a new immigration bill.”
— House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (April Fools!)
New decade, new districts, new California?
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of political “gerrymandering” congressional districts in North Carolina. Gerrymandering is the dividing of your state in purportedly equal size districts in order to serve the people. In fact, it is a weapon used by the dominant political party to draw the political map to favor its candidates and diminish the chances of the other party’s candidates from winning. It is a traditional part of legislative dominance practiced by both parties.
Over the years the practice got so corrupt that citizens groups in many states, like California, seized control of the process, forcing new laws or ballot propositions to take the power of redistricting away from the politicians. At least that was the plan. We passed Proposition 11 in 2008 which helped create the Voters First Act that established a citizen’s commission to redraw the district maps in California after the 2010 census. The 2020 Census is right around the corner and a new California Citizens Redistricting Commission will begin forming before the end of 2019. It is time to review what it is about, how it works and how it was used to the Democrat’s advantage last time.
First, a few notes about why this is an important exercise. If you want to control the House of Representatives, you need to elect Congress men and women in every district in your state from your own party. In many states with fluid populations, like California, politicians see the opportunity to change districts to include new populations favorable to the party. California Democrats have seen a big increase in Hispanic registration and are pushing for voting rights for non-citizens. Making sure all residents are counted, regardless of citizenship, may mean one or more new congressional districts could be created, and that means more people in Congress from your party to vote your way. Redistricting is also an “opportunity” to redraw maps to focus on similar demographic and economic communities as neighborhoods, cities and counties change. Again, the goal is supposed to be more equal proportional representation. Even though race is often used as an “excuse” for drawing district boundaries, segmenting voting districts by race is illegal.
But this process can also be “managed” to get desired outcomes with enough planning and organizing.
Here is a brief outline of the entire process. Someone you have never heard of, State Auditor Elaine Howell, heads the process to fill the initial eight seats on the Redistricting Commission. Everyday citizens apply to sit on the commission beginning sometime in mid-December. There were 30,000 applications for these 14 slots last time.
Howell picks a panel three individuals out of a pool of all registered approved auditors from state agencies to oversee the review of citizen’s applications. This panel reviews the applications and establishes a pool of 60 “approved” applicants which are forwarded to State Legislative leaders from each party. Twenty Democrats, 20 Republicans and 20 No Party Preference applicants are reviewed, and they reduce the pool to 12, six from each group. State Auditor Howell then randomly selects three applicants from each party and two from the No Party group by lottery draw and, these chosen eight members review applicants left in the pool and vote to select six more “commissioners” to fill out the group. A majority of the eight members must approve each additional member from the list.
What you should know about the successful applicants for this Redistricting Commission is that the law calls for chosen members to be virtual political neophytes. If you have worked in a partisan campaign, ever run for office, been elected or an outspoken advocate for any issue you will be eliminated from consideration. Oddly enough, the law seems to want totally politically unaware and uninvolved people in charge of this critical political process. How well the vetting process is performed by the original panel of auditors and again by legislative leaders is anyone’s guess.
Once this process is finished and you have a Commission, the map drawing begins.
Since we now have maps drawn in 2011, the process should be easier this time around, but will be equally contested as changes are proposed. The law calls for the maps to consider population equality, geographic continuity, equal representation of minorities, geographic integrity and compactness and what is termed “nesting.” Nesting is taken to mean areas historically related shouldn’t be separated if possible. The Victor Valley is a good example of an area that should be considered as one region that is compact, historically related and has geographic continuity.
This seems like an open and transparent process, right? During the last redistricting exercise the Republicans got whupped pretty good. How can that be? The key is two-fold. First is preparation. The Democrats were ready for every public hearing and map drawing session with a lineup of “concerned” citizens, community experts and interest groups and recruited local citizens from activist organizations like La Raza, the ACLU, labor unions and political organizations to testify in support of map configurations that coincided with the Democrat’s interests for each district. All of these “citizens” identified themselves as “ordinary” residents but there were ample examples of recruited lobbyists and targeted special interest groups testifying at every hearing. There was even a local group “invented” by Democrats to testify before the Commission that was purportedly non-partisan and community based.
So, the part of this system that calls for open and transparent dialog from “members of the affected community” is abused and used. The question is, can the Republicans and independents in California either obstruct this strategy this time around or at least match the games being played with “structured” local testimonials of their own when the time comes? It takes more planning and organization than the GOP has shown in California in the last 20 years, but anything is possible.
Want to apply for the California Citizens Redistricting Commission? Go to the California State Auditors website and look for instructions. Don’t mention you read this article when applying, you may be deemed as already knowing too much to be selected.
View Original Publication: Daily Press