July 18, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

First Reapportionment, Then Redistricting, What’s It All Mean?

Larry Watts
The U.S. Constitution requires a national census every ten years. This provides an enormous amount of demographic information for policy makers, sociologists, economists, etc. But its primary purpose is to apportion the number of representatives to Congress each state will have for the next ten years.
California didn’t lose seats and at 53, it will still have more members of Congress than any other state. But for the first time since California became a state in 1850, the census did not result in a larger Congressional delegation for our state. But reapportionment is only the first step in the reorganization of our government that takes place following the census. Next comes redistricting, which determines the exact boundaries, not only of our 53 congressional districts, but each of our state Senate and Assembly districts as well.
How those districts are drawn is extremely important. It will affect not only political parties and politicians, but how our personal and community interests will be represented in the Congress and State legislature.
In California, the process of redrawing the political map was historically a duty of state elected officials. However, in 2008 the voters approved Prop. 11, which transferred responsibility for re-districting to a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. In November 2010, voters passed Proposition 20, which adds the task of adjusting the boundary lines for the Congressional districts as well.
Membership on the Commission was open to all registered voters and applicants underwent a two-step screening process. A State Auditor’s panel first evaluated all applicants based upon their relevant analytical skills and ability to be impartial, and with an appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography. The panel selected 60 applicants and then four state legislative leaders were allowed to strike 24 applicants, reducing the applicant pool to 36. The State Auditor then randomly selected eight commissioners from this group of 36. These eight commissioners then selected the remaining six commissioners in a series of public meetings that ended December 15, 2010.
The 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission will now redraw the lines for California’s State Senate, Assembly, Board of Equalization, and Congressional districts. This is not how redistricting has worked historically in our country.
For the most part state legislators have controlled redistricting and from the early 1800’s they have engaged in gerrymandering, a word created after Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a law that redistricted Massachusetts to make it easier for his party to control the state legislature. A map of one district in the Boston area resembled a salamander, hence the name “gerrymander†entered our political lexicon.
But gerrymandering has not been used solely to promote the interests of political parties. Gerrymandering has often been used as a way to disenfranchise minorities. Since minorities have often clustered in particular communities, dividing those communities into smaller areas and making them part of a larger white community was an effective way to dilute the votes of the disfavored minority. But gerrymandering has been used to achieve other goals than to preserve one party’s power or dilute that of a minority. When California’s district lines were re-drawn in 2001 many districts were gerrymandered, not to favor political parties per se, but incumbents, whatever their party.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission must draw districts in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians. Congressional districts are to be drawn to achieve population equality as nearly as is practicable. That will not be an easy task. To approve the new maps, the maps must receive nine “yes†votes from the Commission –
three “yes†votes from members registered with the GOP and Democratic parties, and three from the other independent members. The Commission must complete its job by August 2011. To the extent the commission fails to timely complete this process, the responsibility for completing the job will fall upon the California Supreme Court.
How might redistricting affect Brentwood? Most, but not all of Brentwood, is in Assembly District 42, a seat currently held by Michael Feuer. However, if you live on the west side of Rockingham Avenue or further west, you are in Assembly District 41 and represented in the Assembly by Julia Brownley. Assembly District 41 runs from Santa Monica to Oxnard, but also includes portions of Lake Sherwood, 1000 Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Woodland Hills, Warner Center, Tarzana and Encino.
On the other hand, if you live in southeast Brentwood, east of Bringham Avenue, including parts of Brentwood Glen, you are in Assembly District 47 and represented in the Assembly by Holly Mitchell. The bulk of the 47th Assembly district lies well south and east of Brentwood. It encompasses portions of Westwood, Cheviot Hills, Culver City, Leimert Park, Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights, Little Ethiopia, portions of Koreatown, the Fairfax district and South Los Angeles. Much of the 41st and 47th Assembly Districts face issues that are quite different from those we have in Brentwood.
The same can be said on the Senate side. Much of Brentwood is in Senate District 23, a seat held by Fran Pavley. But South Brentwood and the area north of San Vicente Boulevard east from Barrington to the VA property, are in Ted Lieu’s Senate District 28. The 28th Senate District extends southward to the Torrance area and includes much of West LA, Venice, Marina del Rey, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Lomita, Carson and San Pedro. Much of the 28th Senate District is in areas with very different problems and issues from those of Brentwood.
All of Brentwood is in the 30th Congressional District where Henry Waxman is the incumbent. This is a fairly contiguous district that includes all of the Westside as far west as La Brea Avenue, but excludes West L.A. south of Santa Monica Boulevard, from Sawtelle Avenue to Centinela Avenue and an area west of the 405 and south of Exposition Boulevard in the Palms/Cheviot Hills area. But the district also has a corridor that crosses the Santa Monica Mountains and extends into the Hidden Hills, West Hills and Chatsworth areas.
Why should redistricting be of concern to Brentwood residents? Quite simply, whether a legislator is responsive to a community is often influenced by the way his or her district is drawn. If 99% of a district is located far outside of Brentwood, how likely will it be that the problems of Brentwood will rise to the top of that district’s elected representative’s agenda?
That is why the commission’s guidelines provide for the geographic integrity of any city, county, local neighborhood, or local community of interest to be respected in a manner that minimizes their division to the extent possible. Why should the west side of Rockingham be in a different Assembly district from the rest of Brentwood? Why are a few blocks of Brentwood Glen in a Senate District that is basically a South Bay district?
Will the residents of Brentwood have any opportunity to have their views concerning redistricting heard by the commission? Absolutely. The commission will be holding public hearings over the next several months to receive citizen input. Details for the meetings in Southern California have not yet been announced, but there will be several meetings in the Los Angeles area this spring. Check the Commission’s website for details. ( www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov ).
Additionally, the Redistricting Group at U. C. Berkeley School of Law is hosting a series of interactive, educational workshops and opening regional redistricting technical assistance centers across the State. Information on these workshops and other information concerning redistricting can be found at the group’s website (http://swdb.berkeley.edu/about.html). Another important source of information is available through the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College (http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/rose/redistricting/redistricting.php)

Citizens can send in their views to:
VotersFirstACT@CRC.CA.GOV

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