The California Supreme Court ruled Friday that state Senate district lines drawn up by a citizens' commission should be used in the June primary and November elections.
The panel rejected a request by the Republican sponsor of a referendum petition to suspend those district lines and use one of several alternatives instead.
A statewide hand count of signatures to determine whether that referendum qualifies for the November ballot is due to be completed by Feb. 24.
The high court, in a decision issued in San Francisco, said the map created by the voter-established Citizens Redistricting Commission was the best option for the time being.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote, "The commission's certified map is clearly the most appropriate map to be used in the 2012 state Senate elections even if the proposed referendum qualifies for the ballot."
Most analysts believe the new Senate lines are likely to result in Democrats gaining enough seats to achieve the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate to raise taxes.
The referendum challenging the lines was sponsored by Orange County businesswoman Julie Vandermost and supported by a Republican-funded group called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting.
Vandermost argued that if the referendum qualifies for the November ballot, the new lines must be automatically suspended under state law and the court should substitute a different map.
But the court said that the commission's map appeared to be the best option for meeting state and federal constitutional requirements, which include equalizing populations in districts, attempting to honor city, county and neighborhood boundaries and avoiding dilution of minority voting rights.
Cantil-Sakauye wrote, "The commission's certified state Senate map is the alternative most consistent with the constitutional scheme and criteria embodied in the federal and state constitutions."
California Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro issued a statement charging that "the California Supreme Court severely undermined the referendum process in California."
"It will be up to voters this fall to renew the rights that were extinguished today," Beccaro said, referring to the possible referendum vote in November.
Redistricting commission chair Peter Yao said, "The court's unanimous decision is a great victory for the people of California."
Yao said, "It is regrettable that these challenges, based on partisan self-interest, have cost precious taxpayer dollars to defend the work of the people's commission."
The independent, nonpartisan commission was established by state voters in 2008 to take over the every-ten-year redistricting previously done by the state Legislature.
Bay City News