California Redistricting: Four Key Questions

California’s independent redistricting commission reaches a key milestone by releasing its preliminary congressional and legislative maps for public comment. But many changes are likely before final districts are adopted in late December for the 2022 election.

It took weeks of long, late-night meetings full of wonky debate and digital line drawing — as well as a haiku and at least two songs as public comment. 

But on Nov. 10, California’s independent redistricting commission reached a key milestone: Its first official maps are out. 

The citizen panel voted unanimously to release preliminary congressionalstate Senate and state Assembly districts for public comment. 

The commission’s work is far from done, however. It acknowledges that these preliminary maps are far from perfect, and that it will need the six weeks before its Dec. 27 court-ordered deadline to fix them before adopting final districts for the next decade, starting with the 2022 elections. On its schedule: At least four public input meetings starting Nov. 17, then 14 line-drawing sessions between Nov. 30 and Dec. 19.

“It’s messy. It’s very slow,” commissioner Linda Akutagawa said just before the Nov. 10 vote. “But I do believe that it is a process that has enabled as many people who seek to be engaged in this process to be engaged.”

The commission is working toward “final maps that will best reflect everybody,” added Akutagawa, a no party preference voter from Huntington Beach who is president and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics. 

Some key questions as the 14 commissioners start their next phase: 

How much could the maps change?

A lot, commissioners concede. 

While they’re required to follow a specific set of criteria, with equal population numbers being the highest priority, there are different ways to achieve those goals. 

The draft maps that were approved Wednesday night are generally along the lines of the final round of “visualizations” that the commission worked on this week. They include reworked congressional districts in Northern California, the Central Valley and San Diego in response to public feedback. 

For example, the progressive city of Davis was moved from a U.S. House district with politically conservative, rural areas in Northern California in earlier maps into a more urban, liberal district that includes parts of Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties

To meet its self-imposed deadline so it could avoid meetings around Thanksgiving, the commission also put a pin in several areas that need further work, including congressional and legislative districts in Los Angeles. 

Who are some early winners and losers?

The commission responded to concerns about earlier maps that combined two congressional districts represented by longtime African American representatives into one, and kept them separate in the latest maps. Commissioners were also able to keep the Hmong community united in congressional maps, and kept Native American tribes mostly united in Congressional and state Assembly maps. 

The commission also addressed concerns from community members in Orange County’s Little Saigon by ensuring they were in the same state Senate district. San Joaquin County community leaders who wanted less divided districts are also likely happy with the draft maps.

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Meanwhile, voters in and near Tracy who were disappointed with being grouped into a congressional district with the Bay Area were relieved to see their city placed back with the Central Valley. 

But other areas and advocacy groups are on the losing end so far.

Inyo and Mono counties, where officials asked to be kept together, were split in congressional and Senate districts, as was the city of Santa Clarita in Senate maps. 

Advocates say that proposed state Assembly districts divide Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities in San Francisco.

“Losers” also include voters in Sacramento County, which hasn’t been as vocal in the process and is in danger of being sliced into several congressional districts, according to Jeff Burdick, a political blogger and 2020 congressional candidate.

And the uncertainty surrounding the districts is making it difficult for candidates and campaigns to get going for the June primary, some political professionals told Politico.

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Comments

  1. The important thing to know is how the new map compares with the existing one. How does the proposed redistricting change the number of conservative versus liberal districts in California? I anticipate that its intention was to eliminate as much as possible the conservative districts and dilute even further the meagre conservative representation in California.

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