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District dispute may be headed to court

Posted: July 23, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2011 1:30 a.m.
 

Claims of bias lodged against a redistricting commissioner increase the chance California’s electoral map will be drawn by judges, not those assigned to the task, a local elected official said Friday.

Reports published online by bloggers monitoring the actions of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission recently attacked the impartiality of Commissioner Gabino Aguirre of Santa Paula, claiming he failed to disclose his Democratic bias and his political contributions made to Democratic candidates.

But the claims of Aguirre’s bias are neither recent nor revealing, says a commission spokesman.

“The majority of the blog article is taken directly from Commissioner Aguirre’s commission application, which has been online since last year,” said Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the commission.  

As to allegations of failure to reveal political donations, “Applicants were only required to report donations of more than $250,” Wilcox said. The online complaints were about donations valued at less than $200.

The commission is a group of citizens appointed under new state law to draw districts for the state Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and for Congress that reflect 2010 Census figures.

The commission was approved by voters as a way to take politics out of the process of redrawing districts.

“Political operatives from both sides of the spectrum have tried to disrupt this process by personal attacks on commissioners,” Wilcox said Friday.

“The commission should be judged on the final maps they produce and adopt on Aug. 15.”

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said he sees the Aguirre issue compromising the entire redistricting process.

“With his history of political activism and political contributions, it makes you wonder,” he said.

“I don’t think it matters what the commission comes up with, ultimately, it will end in a court challenge.”

Phone messages left for Aguirre on Friday were not returned.

Every 10 years, new district lines have to be drawn to reflect new census numbers. Previously, those lines were drawn by elected legislators, who often had an interest in preserving their power bases.

The commission — formed in an effort to better reflect the character of the state’s many communities and to end gerrymandering — brought together 14 individuals who harbored no particular political bent and pursued no political agenda.

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