Redistricting – Some Odd Circumstances Even for Those Who may be Unaffected


Prior to 2008 the California Constitution required the State Legislature to adjust the boundaries of the State Legislature (Assembly and Senate) and State Board of Equalization after each ten year federal census. Tired of the political boundaries that looked like the path of drunks trying to negotiate their way across a busy street, California voters cried enough. In November of 2008 Proposition 11 was passed. Prop 11 took the process of redrawing political boundaries, called “redistricting”, away from the State Legislature. Instead, it authorized the creation of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC). The 14 member commission was selected from a group 60 registered voters and is comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans and four of neither party. The final approval for the redrawn boundaries requires votes from three Democratic commissioners, three Republican commissioners and three commissioners from neither party.

In November of 2010 Californians passed Proposition 20. Similar to Prop 11, this measure amends the California Constitution to change the Prop 11 redistricting process to include the California members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Friday, June 10th, the CCRC released its first round of draft maps for Congressional, State Assembly, State Senate and Board of Equalization districts. Final drafts are expected to be released on July 28, with the commission planning to make them official on August 15.

A second draft is expected on July 7th. The second draft will also include the number assigned to each district. Legislatures are elected by district. The State Constitution requires that each district be numbered consecutively, beginning in the north, and ending in the south, left to right. The constitution calls for 40 Senate districts and 80 Assembly districts. Members of the State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives are elected every two years. Members of the State Senate are elected for four years. Senate elections are held every two years, half the senate with odd numbered districts in one two year cycle and the other half with even numbered districts are elected in the next two year cycle. All 80 Assembly seats and half of the 40 Senate seats are up for election every even-numbered year.

Now, this is where it gets interesting, complicated and even confusing. In the 2012 election cycle State Senators representing odd numbered districts are up for election. Depending on how the new districts are drawn and numbered, some parts of the state could wind up being represented by two senators for two years. Others could have none.

How could this happen you ask? In the past, when the Legislature was in charge, they were careful not to radically change boundaries and draw themselves out of their districts; thus making the renumbering process somewhat stable. The CCRC’s first draft of new boundaries has effectively combined existing Senate districts and created new ones. This may change an odd district to an even and vice versa.

Let’s take San Francisco for an example, it currently has two Senate seats: Leland Yee (term expires in 2014), represents the city’s western half and Mark Leno (term expires in 2012) the east. Under the new redistricting maps the city could be left with just one state senator. If the sole Senate district is assigned an odd number there will be an election in 2012. In this scenario the district would elect a new State Senator to represent the new district and because Leland Yee’s term does expire until 2014 he would still represent his half of the city. The new district would then have two senators. Mark Leno could run to represent the new district.

If the new district is assigned an even number, the Mark Leno half of the city would be without representation until 2014. In this scenario the new district is created, Yee still represents his half of the city because he doesn’t term out until 2014, Leno’s term ends in 2012, but there is no one elected to represent the entire new district until 2014.

So what happens to those areas of the state that are left unrepresented? The Senate Rules Committee will appoint a custodian, more than likely a state senator from a neighboring district.

There are other scenarios they could cause certain parts of the state to be either over or under represented. This may be one instance where it is preferable to be referred to as odd.

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About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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