Citizens Panel Certifies California's Political Maps - NBC Bay Area

Citizens Panel Certifies California's Political Maps

The process was the first since voters tasked an independent citizens commission with drawing the boundaries



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    Commissioner Vincent P. Barabba

    A panel created by voters in November 2008 gave final approval Monday to maps that change California's political landscape.

    The California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved new legislative and congressional maps. The 14-member panel was created when voters approved Prop 11 in November 2008. 

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    "With the time we had available and the resources we had, we felt this was as good as could be done," said Commission Vincent Barraba. "I know there are some who might be unsatisfied. I ask that they take a fresh look at the totality of it from the perspective of how these maps benefit the entire state, rather than how their specific interests are served."

    The commission's draft maps were released two weeks ago. Monday's vote provided formal approval of maps for Congress, the Legislature and the Board of Equalization.

    According to Common Cause, which supported Prop 11, the process followed the spirit of the voter-approved proposition. The commission's vote marked the first time that an independent citizens' commission created the boundaries.

    "The Commission’s open process of taking public input was in stark contrast to the previous system, when legislators drew their own district lines, often dividing neighborhoods or groups of people simply to benefit themselves," said Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. "The Citizens Redistricting Commission has held more than 40 public hearings and listened to the testimonies of thousands of citizens to determine the final district lines."

    The final maps for State Assembly, State Senate and Board of Equalization were approved by 13-1 votes. The House of Representatives maps were approved 12-2.

    Republican commissioner Michael Ward voted no.

    Ward, of Anaheim, and Republican commissioner, Jodie Filkins Webber, of Norco, voted against the new congressional boundaries.

    Ward said he felt the decisions were politically motivated.

    "Today is a sad day for me," Ward said. "I believe each of us had the best of intentions, but I believe my sacrifice has largely been for not. The maps are fundamentally flawed. This commission simply traded partisan backroom gerrymandering by politicians for partisan backroom gerrymandering by regular citizens."

    Analysts have said court challenges are possible. Ward said he "absolutely would not" be part of a challenge.

    Ward's allegations include a failure to follow the federal Voting Rights Act. He claimed commissioners engaged in deal-making and that the process was not transparent.

    "The sense I get is that Commissioner Ward attended different meetings than I did, or at least saw them differently," said Barabba. "I believe there is no basis for Commissioner Ward's assertions that the commission broke the law."

    Barraba said it might take a few election cycles before the effects of the new maps become evident.

    The maps will be presented to the Secretary of State's office for final certification. The maps would be used for the first time in the June 2012 election.