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Friday, July 29, 2011

California Redistricting Endgame

An independent citizens' panel is expected to vote to adopt new maps for California's congressional and legislative districts, completing a process that is expected to promote more Democrats to office but one that also will open the door to potential legal and ballot challenges.

Following dozens of meetings since the start of the year, the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission will vote Friday on the final version of district maps for Congress, the state Legislature and the state Board of Equalization, which administers sales and use taxes. At least nine commissioners have to support the lines, including at least three each from Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Tony Quinn writes at Fox and Hounds that the plan is a racial gerrymander:

The worst example of racial gerrymandering is in Los Angeles where the two African American commissioners made it clear their votes for the congressional plan required drawing three black congressional districts, even though Los Angeles black population, now only 8.3 percent of the county’s total, allowed for hardly more than one black district.

African-Americans had initially complained about being ignored, but when it became clear the congressional plan would fail without the votes of the two black commissioners the commission acquiesced to the three black districts, although not without a tearful and bitter debate. And now it turns out that a white Democratic congresswoman is threatening to run in one of the black seats; the commission will probably be forced back to the drawing board to stop that.

The racial gerrymander has one probably unintended consequence: the Republicans were generally saved from extinction. As they created hugely minority districts, lily white Republican districts emerged on their periphery. I had hoped this would not happen; that Republicans would be forced to run in districts with more middle class Latinos, and that Democrats would have to respond to suburban concerns: in other words: the creation of truly competitive districts.

That is not the result. Republicans will hold ultra safe rural and suburban districts; Democrats heavily minority urban districts, and there will be fewer moderates, or anyone who can makes deals. This is the single greatest failure of this commission; and it did not happen by chance.