Republican activists trying to overturn new state Senate districts began filing signed petitions Thursday for a California-wide referendum on the issue.
Referendum proponents, calling themselves Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR), have until Sunday to file the minimum 504,000 signatures needed to get the matter on the November 2012 ballot.
FAIR charges that the maps, drawn for the first time by a citizens commission instead of the Legislature, bear "trademarks of gerrymandering" to favor Democrats. The maps include "bizarre shaped districts, numerous unnecessary county and city splits and the division of key communities of interest," the group said in a statement Thursday.
"Our goal is to achieve a state Senate district plan that is fair to all and that follows the criteria laid out in the California Constitution," state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel) said in FAIR's statement.
The state Supreme Court has turned down GOP-backed legal challenges to state Senate and congressional district maps.
Twenty-two counties will open their offices on Sunday so voter signatures, which still are being collected, can be turned in by the deadline, FAIR spokesman Dave Gilliard said. If the signatures are found to be sufficient, voters will be asked whether to reject the state Senate district maps. In the interim, the state Supreme Court will determine what districts to use in the June and November elections next year.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission expressed confidence that voters would allow the maps to stand.
"We fully expect that the maps drawn by the vote-created, nonpartisan, independent commission with the input of tens of thousands of Californians will be upheld by the voters just as they have already been upheld by a unanimous State Supreme Court.
"Until then, it is the Commission's expectation that our state Senate districts will be used in the 2012 primary and general elections," said Stanley Forbes, current chairman of the commission.