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Patch Guide: California Redistricting

Who is in charge of redistricting? Why does it matter? Why now? Patch explains.

The California Citizens Redistricting Committee on Friday for new electoral boundaries for congressional and state districts across California.

Below, Patch answers some common questions about the redistricting process. Much of the below information comes from the commission's website, which has additional information about the commission as well:

What is redistricting?

Redistricting is the process of redrawing electoral boundaries to account for changes in population that might make districts unequal in the number of residents who are represented. The number of congressional districts in each state does not change with redistricting.

Why is it happening now?

Redistricting is done every 10 years as required by federal law. It is done after new information on populations is released in the 10-year census. The results of were released this spring.

Which districts are being redrawn?

The commission is redrawing congressional districts, state Assembly districts, state Senate districts and state Board of Equalization districts.

Who created the commission?

The commission was created by the Proposition 11 ballot initiative, which voters narrowly passed in the November 2008 election.

Who is on the commission?

There are 14 commission members from all over the state. Five of them are registered Democrats, five are Republicans, and four are decline-to-state voters. The full bios of the members are posted online.

Citizens from throughout California were invited to apply for the commission and were asked to provide information on their backgrounds and to answer essay questions on why they wanted to serve.

Three independent auditors from the Bureau of State Audits narrowed those applications down to 120 people—40 Democrats, 40 Republicans and 40 decline-to-state voters.

Those 120 were interviewed, and the auditors then cut the group in half. The 60 remaining candidates were vetted by the California Legislature's leaders, which were given the right to remove up to 24 without giving any specific reason.

The state auditors then drew names at random to select the first eight commission members. Those eight selected the six additional members.

Why should redistricting matter to me?

New boundaries can mean new elected leaders—sometimes of a different party than an area's previous representative. In some cases it could mean that a state or congressional seat, which was previously uncompetitive, could now be in play for another party.

Who drew the districts before 2008?

The California Legislature was previously empowered to draw the boundaries for both state and congressional districts. They were not required to meet publicly to carry out the process.

What are the standards that the commission followed in creating the districts?

The main standard the commission was required to follow was in putting towns together with "other communities of interest."

What exactly is a community of interest?

The commission took the phrase from California's Constitution, which defines it this way:

"A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process. Communities of interest shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates."

Did the commission consider the political implications of redrawing districts?

The criteria the commission looked at specifically did not include data on what the new districts would mean in terms of voter registration. The commission was not asked to attempt to maintain any kind of existing balance between Democratic and Republican seats.

The commission's website describes the difference between the commission's work and past effort this way: "Historically, legislators drew the district boundaries in closed meetings, often favoring incumbents or their own party."

What if I don't like the new proposed districts?

The districts will not be finalized until Aug. 15. There will be public meetings throughout the state this summer where the public is invited to offer input as to what the final districts should be. Citizens can also voice any issues by calling or emailing the commission to register an official public comment.

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