Noble Experiment: CA's Citizen Redistricting Committee
As ever, the state of California is the home of the experimental. Think Silicon Valley. Think Haight-Ashbury. Think Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This time it is the Citizens Redistricting Commission. This Commission, brought into existence by California voters passing Proposition 11 in 2008, provides for a committee of real, live citizens (as opposed to politicians) to redraw the boundary lines for the state Assembly, state Senate and Board of Equalization voting districts.
In the past, it appears, the legislature did not do a particularly efficient job of drawing districts, leaning more towards safe Democratic and Republican seats than towards actual geographic boundaries. According to the California Watch Blog, the 14 member Commission will be charged with forming districts that are "to the extent practicable ... follow city, town and county boundaries ... and preserve similarities in social, cultural, ethnic, and economic interest, school districts, and other formal relationships between municipalities."
California Watch writes more than 25,802 hardy souls had completed the initial application process as of March 11. Unfortunately for the state of California, which prides itself on its diverse population and cultural backgrounds, the applicants were not very representative of the population. The initial group of applicants was nearly two thirds male, 70 percent white, about 10 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian.
The would-be citizen lawmakers originally had until today, April 2, to complete their applications. Initial requirements were simple, asking only if they voted in at least two of the last three statewide general elections, have been a member of the same political party for at least five years, and don't violate any of the conflict of interest rules. The additional requirements such as providing essays about their analytical skills, and their understanding of the state's geography and diversity and three letters of recommendation were more demanding. As the numbers dipped to a relatively tiny 1,600, Elaine Howle, the State Auditor, extended today's deadline to April 19. There are webinars and a hotline (see below) for those who have questions.
The pay for working on the Commission is $300 a day, which is a fortune when you compare it to the jury stipend, a mere $15. But with the democratic process, society depends on individuals to stand up now and then and take a turn supporting us all. Good luck to those sticking with the process to go from 1 in 25,000, to 1 in 14. California could use your help.
State Auditor Toll Free Number: 1-866-356-5217
- Thousands - mostly white men - apply to redraw district lines (California Watch Blog)
- Thousands of redistricting commission applicants balk at extra work (California Watch Blog)
- We Draw the Lines, California's First Citizens Redistricting Commission (WeDrawTheLines.ca.gov)
- Gerrymander (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- Taking Time Off for Voting and Jury Duty (FindLaw)