California redistricting commission defends new state maps

On Monday, several members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission defended their months of work as they passed on their completed district maps.

If the maps succeed through court challenges, those maps will direct congressional and legislative elections for the next decade in the state.

Commission chairwoman Isra Ahmad commented on the process. “It was messy. And that’s the beauty of democracy,” she said. The maps were formally presented to Secretary of State Shirley Weber, California’s top elections official and include lines for 52 congressional districts, 40 state Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts, and four Board of Equalization districts.

The former congressional districts numbered 53, which is one more than the new map. Population shifts of people out of the state with fewer moving in mean the state is appropriated one fewer congressional seat. 

The maps do, however, reflect the state’s increasing Latino population. Of the 80 Assembly districts, 22 have a voting age Latino population over 50 percent, a demographic that is the same in 11 of the 40 Senate districts and 16 of the 52 congressional districts.

The Latino majority districts increased by six in the Assembly, four in the Senate, and six in Congress. Despite the new lines, the commission’s first randomly selected members were criticized for lacking sufficient Latino representation.

The new districts have prompted several lawmakers’ retirement announcements, which will force others to move into new districts and win over new voters. In some cases, this could force incumbents to face members of the same or opposing parties in struggles for reelection.

Democratic commissioner Rev. Trena Turner commented on the redistricting procedures, saying, “In order to please and honor the desires of some, we knew that we would disappoint others, and for me that was a heartbreaking process.” She continued, “And it seemed to me that it would be so easy if we had a square state, if we didn’t lose a congressional seat.” 

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