Groups propose redistricting plan for state
SACRAMENTO -- The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, California Common Cause and AARP proposed an initiative Tuesday that would change the way the state’s legislative districts are drawn, taking the politically sensitive matter away from lawmakers.
Leaders of the organizations, saying they are frustrated with the political gridlock on redistricting, filed the proposed measure with the state attorney general as the first step toward putting it on the November 2008 ballot; coalition organizers said they hoped to collect 1 million signatures if the Legislature does not agree to submit the measure to voters.
“Legislators draw their own districts, which is a fundamental conflict of interest,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. “We have seen time and again cities and communities carved up as part of incumbents protecting themselves.”
The proposed “Voters FIRST Act” was submitted because of concern that state legislators have not been able to reach consensus on a redistricting proposal, and the legislative year is running down, Feng said.
If approved by voters, the measure would create a 14-person redistricting commission made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four others. The commissioners would be chosen through a public application process created by the state auditor. The review panel will narrow the pool of contenders to 60. After that, the four top legislative leaders would cut the pool to 36. Eight commissioners would be selected by random drawing from the 36 candidates, and those eight would select the other six commission members.
Those who have been appointed to, elected to or were a candidate for federal or state office within the last 10 years would not be eligible to join the panel.
The new state legislative districts would be required to have equal populations, comply with the Voting Rights Act and respect the geographic integrity of any city, county or community of interest.
“Incumbent residences may not be considered; districts may not be drawn to protect incumbents,” according to the ballot measure.
The final map would not go into effect unless approved by at least three Democrats, three Republicans and three of the remaining commissioners.
The commission would draw the districts for the Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization for the next redistricting, in 2011.
Congressional seats would be drawn by the Legislature, following the same mapping criteria and hearing requirements as the commission.
“We just think it’s the right time to give the voters an opportunity to look at a redistricting proposal that is very fair,” said Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the chamber.