Who Is Redrawing the Lines?

A look at the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

It's 14 people.

Five of them are Democrats. Five of them are Republicans. And four of them belong to other political parties or "decline to state" their party registration.

Together, they are making decisions this summer that will affect California politics for the next 10 years.

By Aug. 15, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission will have approved new districts in California for Congress, the state Senate, the state Assembly and the state Board of Equalization.

They are scheduled to post more detailed maps for the proposed new districts on their website this week. The final proposed maps will be released on July 28.

"It's a pretty revolutionary concept in California. It's history in the making," said Connie Galambos Malloy, the only commission member from the East Bay.

The roots of the commission were planted in November 2008 when California voters approved a ballot initiative that took redistricting out of the hands of politicians and placed it in the hands of this new commission.

A pool of 60 applicants was considered for the 14 commission seats. Members of the state Legislature were allowed to eliminate 24 applicants they found objectionable.

That left 36 finalists. The state auditor randomly chose eight of them for the commission in November. Three were Republicans, three were Democrats and two were independents or "decline to state."

Six more commission members were chosen in December. There were two from each party and two of the "other" applicants.

The group is now studying the state's congressional districts as well as its 40 state Senate seats, 80 state Assembly regions and four Board of Equalization districts.

For a new district map to be approved, it must receive at least nine "yes" votes. At least three of them must be from Democrats, three must be from Republicans and three must be from the "other" category.

The new maps will be the blueprint for these elections until a new census is completed in 2020.

In Walnut Creek, the city likely will stay within the districts of state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier.

However, the congressional district could shift from Rep. John Garamendi to Rep. George Miller.

After its mapping decisions, the commission is scheduled to stay intact for the rest of the decade.

Malloy is an Oakland resident and is listed as a "declines to state" on her voter registration. She is a manager with Urban Habitat (UH), a regional urban planning and policy organization.

Malloy said she felt the commission was "a good fit" for her because of her planning experience.

She said commissioners have a well-established set-up under the voter approved system.

They are required when drawing up districts to give equal weight to population distribution, city and county boundaries, communities of common interest as well as other factors.

Malloy said she expects the new districts they approve will make more sense than some of the current districts, which were drawn up by politicans.

"We conspicuously turn a blind eye to where a representative may live," she said. "In the past, some areas were so egregiously gerrymandered that virtually anything we do will look more compact."

The commissioners are helped by a paid staff of 10, headed by Executive Director Daniel Claypool.

He said the commission employees are support staff only. They do not make any recommendations on where district lines should be drawn.

Claypool said he believes the commission will succeed because of the impartial way it was set up and the guidelines laid out by the voters.

"There is an assured level of impartiality," he said.

Overall, there are five commissioners from Northern California, eight from Southern California and one from the central part of the state.

Three of the commissioners are business owners, two work in the legal field and two are management level employees. The rest of the board works in education, medicine, insurance, architecture, city planning and the high-tech industry. One is a stay-at-home mother who does volunteer work.

Two of the commissioners have held elective office, both having served on city councils within the past decade.

Other commission members from the Bay Area are:

Angelo Ancheta, a registered Democrat who lives in San Francisco and is a law professor at Santa Clara University.

Vincent Barabba, a registered Republican who lives in Capitola and is the founder of Market Insight Corp., a firm that provides real time online shopper preferences to companies.

Cynthia Dai, a registered Democrat who lives in San Francisco and is the chief executive officer of Dainamic Consulting Inc., a firm that advises growth organizations and social ventures.

You can view the biographies of the other board members by clicking on the link here.

After the maps are approved, the commissioners will spend the rest of the decade dealing with questions, concerns or challenges that arise.

They also will advise other states that are considering a similar process.

"There is a sense of purpose on the part of all the commissioners," said Malloy.

Sheafe Ewing July 12, 2011 at 04:01 PM
This is a well done article on an important subject to voters in state elections. The ballot initiative created this commission was passed to take the task away from the state legislators who had a conflict of interest in seeing the makeup of their district favored their re-election, rather than serve to make their district reflect the demographic changes that have occurred since the previous boundaries were drawn. The same type of commission should be formed in Contra Costa County (and others) to eliminate the rancorous name-calling and bickering that is reported to have been going on here, AND to take into account the common-sense boundaries that already exist.


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