California Citizens Redistricting Commission

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The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is the redistricting organization for the state of California. It is responsible for determining the boundaries for the Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization districts in the state. The 14-member commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four commissioners from neither major party. The commission was authorized following the passage of California Proposition 11, the Voters First Act, by voters in November 2008.[1] The commissioners were selected in November and December 2010 and were required to complete the new maps by August 15, 2011.[2]

Following the 2010 passage of California Proposition 20, the Voters First Act for Congress, the Commission was also assigned the responsibility of redrawing the state's U.S. congressional district boundaries in response to the congressional apportionment necessitated by the 2010 United States Census. The Commission has faced opposition from politicians because "many safe seats in the Legislature could suddenly become competitive."[3]


The Commission certified new electoral district maps by the August 15, 2011 deadline with the required “supermajority” of a minimum of three Democrats, three Republicans, and three commissioners from neither major party, as stipulated by Article XXI sections 2(c) and 2(g) of the California Constitution. Maps for the state legislative districts passed with a 13-1 vote, and for Congressional districts with a 12-2 vote.[4] In response to a series of legal challenges, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously three times in favor of the Commission’s maps, finding them in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and California Constitution.[5][6][7] In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice granted preclearance of the Commission’s maps under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.[8] The new districts took effect for the June 5, 2012 primary.[9] Republican sponsors put a referendum on the Senate map on the November 6, 2012 ballot as Proposition 40, but have since reversed their position and are no longer opposing the new districts.[10][11]

While the long-term results will bear out over time, independent studies by the Public Policy Institute of California, the National Journal, and Ballotpedia have shown that California now has some of the most competitive districts in the nation, creating opportunities for new elected officials.[12][13][14] For example, the uncertainty caused by the new districts combined with California’s “top two” primary system has resulted in half a dozen resignations of incumbent Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle, a major shake-up of California’s Capitol Hill delegation.[15][16] In addition, it has forced a number of intra-party races, most notably a showdown between two of the state’s most powerful House Democrats, Representatives Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.[15][17][18] In the previous 10 years, incumbents were so safe that only one Congressional seat changed party control in 255 elections,[15] due to bi-partisan gerrymandering after the redistricting following the 2000 Census.[19][20][21] It is predicted that some of the newly elected politicians will be particularly well-suited for national politics since they will be forced to find positions that please moderate and independent voters to remain in office.

Commission selection process[edit]

In November 2008, California voters passed Proposition 11, authorizing a state redistricting commission.[1] The Bureau of State Audits (BSA) adopted regulations on 20 October 2009.[22] The Applicant Review Panel was randomly selected on 16 November 2009. The initial application period to apply to be on the commission began on 15 December 2009 and continued through 16 February 2010.[23] The BSA issued more regulations in 2010 dealing with how the first 8 commissioners would select the remaining 6.[24] The required supplemental application period began on 17 February 2010 and continued through 19 April 2010.[23] California Proposition 20 was passed in November 2010.[23]

The California State Auditor collected nearly 5,000 completed applications out of over 30,000[25] for the commission. A three-member panel of auditors reviewed the applications and conducted interviews to establish a pool of 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and 20 applicants from neither major party. The panel submitted the list of 60 of the most qualified applicants to the Legislature on September 29, 2010.[23]

The speaker of the California State Assembly, the president pro tempore of the California State Senate, and the minority party leaders in the Assembly and the Senate, as authorized by the law, jointly reduced the pools to 12 members in each pool. The Legislature submitted a list of applicants remaining in the pool on 12 November 2010.[23] The State Auditor then randomly drew three Democrats, three Republicans, and two applicants from neither major party to become commissioners on 18 November 2010.[23] Finally, these first eight commissioners selected six commissioners from the remaining applicants in the pools on 15 December 2010.[23][26]

Map-drawing process[edit]

The Voters First Act and Voters First Act for Congress amended Article XXI section 2(d) of the California Constitution to establish a set of rank-ordered criteria that the Commission followed to create new districts:

  1. Population Equality: Districts must comply with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of “one person, one vote”
  2. Federal Voting Rights Act: Districts must ensure an equal opportunity for minorities to elect a candidate of their choice
  3. Geographic Contiguity: All areas within a district must be connected to each other, except for the special case of islands
  4. Geographic Integrity: Districts shall minimize the division of cities, counties, local neighborhoods and communities of interests to the extent possible, without violating previous criteria. 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.
  5. Geographic Compactness: To the extent practicable, and where this does not conflict with previous criteria, districts must not bypass nearby communities for more distant communities
  6. Nesting: To the extent practicable, and where this does not conflict with previous criteria, each Senate district will be composed of two whole Assembly districts, Board of Equalization districts will be composed of 10 Senate districts.

In addition, incumbents, political candidates or political parties cannot be considered when drawing districts. Article XXI section 2(b) of the California Constitution also requires that the Commission “conduct an open and transparent process enabling full public consideration of and comment on the drawing of district lines.” As documented in its final report, the Commission engaged in an extensive public input process that included 34 hearings across the state where 2700 citizens and a diverse range of organized groups gave public testimony, including organizations such as the League of Women Voters, California Forward, Common Cause, the California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber), Equality California, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and the Sierra Club. Over 20,000 written public comments were submitted through the website, via email or fax.[27]

Since the process was open, partisans were among those who attempted to influence the Commission during the public hearing process to ensure the resulting districts were drawn in their favor. In a much-cited article, the investigative journalism publisher ProPublica found evidence that the California Democratic Party leaders coordinated with community groups to testify in front of the Commission, and concluded that these efforts had manipulated the process.[28][29][30][31][32][33][34] While the California Republican Party was quick to call for an investigation, other political observers were less surprised and noted that similar Republican efforts during the hearing process were simply less effective.[35][36][37][38] In a response to the story, the Commission stated that it “had its eyes wide open” and “were not unduly influenced by that.”[39][40]


Daniel Claypool was the commission's executive director.[41] The commissioners are:[42]

  • Gabino Aguirre
  • Angelo Ancheta
  • Maria Blanco
  • Cynthia Dai
  • Jeanne Raya
  • Vincent Barraba
  • Jodie Filkins Webber
  • Lilbert "Gil" R. Ontai
  • Michael Ward
  • Peter Yao
  • Michelle R. DiGuilio
  • Stanley Forbes
  • Connie Galambos Malloy
  • M. Andre Parvenu


Opponents alleged California Proposition 20 had unconstitutionally transferred the power to draw congressional district lines from the California State Legislature to the redistricting commission. They argued the federal constitution prohibited the people from bypassing the state legislature and using ballot initiatives to make laws governing federal elections. The federal constitution provides, "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." (emphasis added).

On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an Arizona ballot initiative giving redistricting power to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.[43] Because the California and Arizona commissions were created in the same way and they had similar powers under state laws, it is widely understood that the ruling in the Arizona case has also implicitly upheld California Proposition 20 and the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.


  1. ^ a b John Wildermuth (2008-11-27). "Redistricting victory a big win for governor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  2. ^ Citizens Redistricting Commission (2011). "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  3. ^ Evan Halper and Richard Simon (2011-06-11). "District maps draw a new political landscape". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
  4. ^ Wood, Tracy (29 July 2011). "State Redistricting Commission Approves Final Version of Political Maps". Voice of OC. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  5. ^ "California Supreme Court Denies Challenges to Redistricting Maps". California Supreme Court. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  6. ^ "Supreme Court Issues Ruling on State Senate District Map for 2012 Elections". California Supreme Court. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  7. ^ Merl, Jean (10 February 2012). "Federal judge dismisses final redistricting lawsuit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  8. ^ Merl, Jean (10 February 2012). "Justice Department signs off on California redistricting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Current Status of Commission's Final Certified District Maps". California Citizens Redistricting Commission. 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  10. ^ Sanders, Jim (12 July 2012). "Redistricting measure backers throw in the towel, won't seek passage". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  11. ^ Herdt, Timm (1 October 2012). "California GOP says never mind on Prop. 40". Ventura County Star. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  12. ^ Eric McGhee; Daniel Krimm (September 2012). "Test-driving California's Election Reforms". Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  13. ^ John Hrabe (18 July 2012). "10 California U.S. House races ranked 'most competitive' in country". CalWatchdog. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  14. ^ Tyler King (16 August 2012). "2012 competitiveness in California state legislative elections". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 26 September 2012. California's legislative elections in 2012 are more competitive than most of the country, based on Ballotpedia's Competitiveness index which captures the extent of electoral competitiveness exhibited in state legislative elections.
  15. ^ a b c Nagourney, Adam (13 February 2012). "California Set to Send Many New Faces to Washington". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  16. ^ Trigstad, Kyle (17 January 2012). "California Retirements Present Opportunities". Roll Call. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  17. ^ Pamer, Melissa (5 June 2012). "Rampant Berman-Sherman Race Shows Off New Landscape of California Elections: A new redistricting process and top-two primary system are highlighted by an attention-getting race in the San Fernando Valley". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  18. ^ Miller, Susan (6 June 2012). "California heads for shake-up of congressional delegation". USA Today. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  19. ^ Bullock, Charles S.; Bullock, III, Charles S. (2010). Redistricting: The Most Political Activity in America. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 123. ISBN 9781442203549. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  20. ^ Ethan Rarick (2 October 2005). "Learning to love gerrymandering". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  21. ^ Galderisi, Peter F. (2005). Redistricting In The New Millennium. Lexington Books. p. 224. ISBN 9780739107188. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  22. ^ CCR § 60800, etc. Proposed in the Notice Register 2009, No. 31-Z., p. 1189. Submitted to the Office of Administrative Law on 5 November 2009, operative 6 November 2009 pursuant to Government Code section 11343.4 (Register 2009, No. 45). First appeared in Notice Register 2009, No. 47-Z., p. 2005.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Citizens Redistricting Commission. "What is redistricting?". Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  24. ^ Proposed in the Notice Register 2010, No. 16-Z., p. 568. Submitted to the Office of Administrative Law on 2 September 2010, operative 3 September 2010 pursuant to Government Code section 11343.4 (Register 2010, No. 36). First appeared in Notice Register 2009, No. 38-Z., p. 1522.
  25. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (3 March 2010). "Californians Compete for a Shot at Redistricting". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  26. ^ Citizens Redistricting Commission (2011). "Selection Process – We Draw the Lines". Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  27. ^ "State Of California Citizens Redistricting Commission Final Report On 2011 Redistricting" (PDF). California Citizens Redistricting Commission. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  28. ^ Pierce, Olga; Jeff Larson (21 December 2011). "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission". ProPublica. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  29. ^ Blake, Aaron (5 June 2012). "California's new political reality, explained". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 June 2012. There were also critics of the citizen’s redistricting process, and some reports indicated that the Democratic Party, in particular, subverted the process in order to get the map drawn in its favor. (Creating a truly independent process for redistricting has proven very difficult, though California’s attempt has earned praise.)
  30. ^ Steven Greenhut (2 January 2012). "Rampant Corruption in California Redistricting: How left-wing activists stacked the deck in favor of Golden State Democrats". Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  31. ^ Steven Greenhut (21 December 2011). "More Proof Dems Manipulated Redistricting". CalWatchdog. Journalism Center at the Pacific Research Institute. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  32. ^ Lisa Vorderbrueggen (29 December 2011). "Democrats manipulated California redistricting commission; ProPublica investigation reveals process was biased". Eureka Times Standard. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  33. ^ Larry Mantle (22 December 2011). "Report on Dems manipulating congressional districts: The fallout begins". KPCC. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  34. ^ Alex Isenstadt (21 December 2011). "How Dems won California's remap". Politico. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  35. ^ "Editorial: Shocker! Dirty politics played role in redistricting maps". Sacramento Bee. 29 December 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  36. ^ "The politics of redistricting in California". Los Angeles Times. 24 December 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  37. ^ Myers, John (21 December 2011). "The Frenzy Over ProPublica's Redistricting Report". KQED News. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  38. ^ "Redistricting flap: ProPublica story flawed, Republican strategy questioned". Capitol Weekly. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  39. ^ "Statement from California Citizens Redistricting Commission Responding to Our Story". ProPublica. 23 December 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  40. ^ Marinucci, Carla (22 December 2011). "CA redistricting commissioner: Dem manipulation charges "dead wrong"". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  41. ^ Jim Sanders (January 14, 2011). "Redistricting panel loses member, gains executive director". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  42. ^ Citizens Redistricting Commission (2011). "Commissioner Biographies". Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  43. ^ "Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission" (PDF).

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