After months of meetings, public hearings and sometimes heated back and forth, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission on (CCRC) submitted its final redrawing of lines for state and congressional districts to the Secretary of State on Monday, and while African Americans are basically satisfied with the results, others do not feel the same way and have vowed to fight the new lines.
CCRC Commissioner Dr. Mike Ward is one of those who alleges wrong-doing on the part of the redistricting body claiming among other things that it “broke the law” by failing to apply the Voting Rights Acts (VAR) to Congressional districts in Los Angeles.
Ward asserts that the VAR requires that all possible majority-minority districts be drawn.
African Americans disagree with Wards’ assertions, and President of the California NAACP Alice Huffman calls any attempt to lump Blacks into a minority-majority district “packing.”
“That would have reduced our opportunity to have greater influence in more than one district, and that is against the Voting Rights Act . . . the Voting Rights Act requires them to do everything possible to have us maintain our political power,” added Huffman, who said any attempt to “pack” African American voters into one or two districts would definitely result in a lawsuit.
According to Micah Grant, a communications strategist with the California Republican Party, the GOP also believes that the CCRC process was flawed from the very beginning with the selection of the line-drawing consulting firm. He also notes that Republicans believe that the entire process lacked the transparency intended for this new system.
Consequently, the state organization is supporting a referendum effort by a group–Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR)–led by state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna) to place a measure on the June 2012 ballot that would overturn the new state senate lines.
There is also talk of launching a similar referendum to overturn Congressional lines, and if that happens, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, of the African American Redistricting Collaborative said his group would take that as a direct attack on Black Congressional districts and would definitely fight such an effort.
“I’d like to say that we’re breathing a guarded sigh of relief,” said Harris-Dawson about the final maps. “Our main goal was to maintain the level of African American representation at every level being considered, and we felt like we accomplished that.
“At the same time, there are some serious problems with the district maps that impact our representation in a negative way,” Harris-Dawson noted.
These problems include the exclusion of the Vermont Knolls community from the district that contains the Los Angeles Airport, and the inclusion of Torrance in the district that has been traditionally known as South Los Angeles and represented by Maxine Waters.
In the Antelope Valley, according to political veteran Darren Parker, chairman of African American Democratic Caucus, the final maps somehow maintain the region as the traditional Republic stronghold it has been for a long time. This happened despite the fact that Democratic voter registration outpaced Republican efforts.
Parker noted that maintaining the lines in this way makes it a big challenge for any person of color to get elected, even Latinos, who represent the majority minority in the area.
Latino activists are particularly troubled by the final district lines that find while their voting population has increased statewide, they did not gain districts.
According to one report, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, led by President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz, is considering taking the commission to court over their issues.
People, who want to protest the final lines, can do so in an expedited process to the state supreme court, which has the power to make changes to the map.
Republicans are choosing the referendum method, because strategist Grant said they want to give voters an opportunity to weigh in on the conversation.