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Citizens panel that redrew California legislative districts praised

June 13, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • State Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) rises from his seat to check his computer screen as a bill is put up for a vote at the Capitol in Sacramento.
State Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) rises from his seat to check his computer… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

The decision of California voters to take the job of determining the boundaries of legislative districts away from the affected lawmakers and give it to interested citizens turned out to be a good one, according to a new study.

The report prepared for the League of Women Voters of California found that of the one-third of voters familiar with the work of the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 66% approved of the maps of legislative districts drawn by the panel.

“Over the last decade, we have seen California’s citizens wrestle power away from legislators and take active steps to be more fully engaged in the state’s democracy,” Jennifer Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California, said Wednesday. “For us, the report’s findings show that the most recent line-drawing process was a big step in the right direction.”

Voters approved Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010, giving the task of drawing districts for the Legislature, Board of Equalization and California’s congressional delegation to a 14-person commission prohibited from considering which party or incumbent might benefit from the new district boundaries.

The new configuration of Senate districts survived a legal challenge from Republicans, noted Raphael J. Sonenshein, who researched and wrote the report for the league.

Sonenshein, who is executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, also identified some issues that should be addressed the next time the citizens commission convenses after the 2020 census.

In particular, he said the panel was given too little time — 18 months — to solicit public input and redraw legislative boundaries. The panel also “lacked funding for outreach and engagement with the public,” the report concluded.

“Despite some of the challenges,” Sonenshein said, “citizen redistricting achieved a goal that was consistent with the spirit of the laws passed by voters: shaking up the incumbent-centered world of California politics.”

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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