On November 30th, I was sworn in to a 10-year term of service on California’s first-ever Citizens Redistricting Commission. This 8-member body is charged with redrawing California’s Senate, Assembly, State Board of Equalization, and Congressional districts based on information gathered during the 2010 census. The Commission must draw the districts in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians.
As the most populous state in the nation, all eyes are on California to set the standard on efficient and equitable citizen-led redistricting efforts. This represents the ultimate public service opportunity to me, as a believer in democracy and equal representation across race and class lines. It builds on my professional career as an urban planner, and connects to my personal experience as a multi-racial, bi-lingual daughter of first-generation immigrant Colombian parents, and Caucasian adoptive parents.
My role as a Commissioner will be a huge lift – I may even need to take a leave of absence from my day job to accommodate the most labor-intensive portions of the process from January-August 2011. Right now, we just getting our feet wet and focusing on how to select the final six members of our Commission by December 31, 2010. We’re charged with identifying folks with analytical skills, the ability to be impartial, and who have an appreciation of California’s diverse demographics and geography.
The Voters FIRST Act which created the Citizens Redistricting Commission for California specifically prohibits all Commissioners and our staff from discussing the specifics of redistricting outside of a public meeting. This was designed to ensure complete transparency in all stages of the deliberations, a stark departure to historical legacies of back room deals in smoke filled rooms. You can view all of our public meetings online, live, at http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/, and they are all open to the public. At our first meeting, representatives from groups such as California Forward, Common Cause, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the California League of Women Voters shared their perspectives on the significance of this historic effort.
Over the coming weeks and months we’ll transition from our digs in Sacramento to hosting hearings across all corners of the state. We’ll solicit your guidance as to where we should draw the lines– and then getting real-time feedback on the draft maps as we create them. I hope to see many of you at future Commission meetings, and thank you in advance for ensuring that the Redistricting process amplifies the political voice of all Californians.
Connie Galambos Malloy is program director for the environmental justice group Urban Habitat.