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UPDATED: Scott Wilk: Redistricting: You now have a voice

Right Here, Right Now!

Posted: January 20, 2011 7:53 p.m.
Updated: January 21, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

Editor's note: This column has been UPDATED with proper attribution.

The law prohibits legislators from having a financial conflict-of-interest, with one exception: Every 10 years the legislators are allowed to draw their own district lines.

Historically, the process has gone like this: the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census and updates the state's demographic information. Then the Legislature draws new political boundaries for Congress, the state Senate and state Assembly.

This gives state legislators the opportunity to draw lines to either protect their current jobs or to give themselves a promotion to higher office by drawing favorable lines in a district of their choice.

The most egregious example was in 2001, when the Democrat and Republican congressional delegation and state representatives agreed to support an incumbent-protection plan. The result was the state Legislature disenfranchised every voter in California.

The plan did not follow the federal Voting Rights Act or other criteria required in the redistricting process. The people hurt most by this act were the Hispanic community.

A great local example: the San Fernando Valley is carved up so it is represented by four white Democrat incumbent congressmen.

In response to this travesty, Ballotpedia.com reported, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supported two reform measures: Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010. These two propositions took control over redistricting away from the state legislature and established an independent commission that will be charged with drawing the new boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts.

Proposition 11 squeaked through with 50.9 percent of the vote, according to the Secretary of State. It authorized the creation of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. This commission is tasked with drawing the 120 legislative districts (80 seats in the Assembly and 40 seats in the Senate) and four Board of Equalization districts.

Proposition 20 was approved by 61.3 percent of voters last November and added the task of re-drawing the boundaries of California's congressional districts to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

According to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission's website, we join 12 other states that use independent commissions to craft redistricting plans. The new commission is comprised of 14 members: five Republicans; five Democrats; and four Independents.

The commission's website states the following criteria must be used: "Congressional districts, senatorial, Assembly, and state Board of Equalization districts shall have reasonably equal population; the plan must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act; districts shall be geographically contiguous; the geographic integrity of any city, county, city and county, local neighborhood, or local community of interest shall be respected; districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness; and to the extent practicable, each Senate district shall be comprised of two whole, complete, and adjacent Assembly districts, and each Board of Equalization district shall be comprised of 10 whole, complete, and adjacent Senate districts."

"Once the four maps (congressional, Senate, Assembly and state Board of Equalization) are drawn by the commission, it must be approved by at least nine of the 14 members. Those nine must also contain at least three Democrats, three Republicans, and three who are not affiliated with either party."

"The redistricting commission has until Aug. 15, 2011, to create the maps that will govern the congressional and legislative districts until 2020."

"If the commission does not approve a final map by at least the nine required votes, or if voters disapprove a certified final map in a referendum, the Secretary of State shall immediately petition the California Supreme Court to appoint special masters to adjust the boundary lines of that map in accordance with the redistricting criteria. Upon its approval of the masters' map, the court shall certify the map to the Secretary of State, which map shall constitute the certified final map for the subject type of district."

Unfortunately, the Santa Clarita Valley is not large enough to encompass a congressional, Senate or Assembly seat. So our valley will need to be linked with other communities.

Should it be Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley or eastern Ventura County? Those are questions the commission will decide, and you will have an opportunity to provide your input. Later in the year, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission will hold public hearings to receive input on its plans.

To keep apprised of the redistricting process, you can visit the commission's website at wedrawthelines.ca.gov/ and sign up for email updates.

Now that the people have been given a voice, let's exercise it.

Scott Thomas Wilk is a member of the California Republican Party and elected member to the Republican Party of Los Angeles County. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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