Criticism of Redistricting Commission’s Progress is Unfounded

150 150 John Guenther

In Fox & Hounds this week, Steven Maviglio takes a closer look at the criticism leveied at the Citizens Redistricting Commission, and sets the record straight.

Another week, another blast at the Citizens Redistricting Commission from redistricting “expert” Tony Quinn. His latest article comes with the inflammatory headline, “Redistricting Commission tries to repeal One Person, One Vote.” You would think the Commission was trying to reinstate slavery or take away a woman’s right to vote. But no, all the Commission did was take a preliminary step to interpret an ambiguous area in redistricting law.

Here is the background. The U.S. Supreme Court has traditionally upheld state redistricting plans where the populations of districts are balanced within 10%. The Court added some additional complexity in the 2004 case Larios v. Cox saying such deviations needed to be justified by “legitimate state interests” and not “tainted by arbitrariness or discrimination” (more on this later).

A separate set of cases by the California State Supreme Court have found that under the state Constitution districts should be balanced within 2%. The hitch is that all those cases pre-date the passage of Propositions 11 and 20 which changed the California State Constitution. How will the Court interpret the population equality standards under the new rules? The Commission decided to give itself more flexibility and begin with the federal standard and then see how far they could tighten things down later.

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John Guenther

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