Building on the Fair Maps Act
The California Common Cause, a group that advocates for open government, met recently to bring attention to the Fair Maps Act of which two California State Assembly bills, AB 764 and AB 1248, have been introduced to demonstrate an ongoing need to improve and expand the state’s redistricting process.
“We have got to institutionalize protection so that communities don’t have to fight tooth and nail for their rights,” said Dora Rose, deputy director of the California League of Women Voters, one of the sponsors of the two bills. “We’ve got to build on the success of the Fair Maps Act (FMA). Otherwise, we end up with older White people in charge, who just don’t reflect the Latino people, the Asian-Pacific Islander people, the Indigenous people, the Black people, the youth, that together make up the majority of our vote.”
AB 764 is designed to prohibit the drawing of districts for the purpose of “favoring or discriminating” against an incumbent or political candidate. AB 1248 was introduced to require that that county or city schools and colleges (serving more than 3,000 people) establish an Internal Revenue Code in time for the next U.S. Census count in order for the redistricting process to proceed. Specific guidelines of impartiality will be in place to assure that no redistricting is done without public input.
The success of The Fair Maps Act (FMA), approved by voters in 2019, remains up for debate. The intention was to prohibit racial and partisan gerrymandering in drawing congressional districts to better foster fair, effective and equal representation. This year, Nicolas Heidorn, a government policy consultant, wrote a report detailing the pros and cons of the FMA.
“The FMA was broadly successful in promoting a more transparent and participatory local redistricting process,” Heidorn reported in citing a number of “ambiguities, loopholes and deficiencies in the legislation that may undermine the law’s important goals that can [sometimes] be exploited” to protect incumbents.
Experts on the issue say that it is important that moving forward there be a halt to voter disenfranchisement and remind ourselves that diverse representation for city positions is absolutely critical..
The FMA comes on the heels of the Los Angeles City Hall racism scandal in which three councilmembers, Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin DeLeon, along with labor leader Ron Herrera were caught on tape during a meeting about local redistricting making racist remarks about African-Americans in specific districts and how to divide these areas to dilute the Black voting power and council representation.
Heidorn reported that the FMA has helped “improve the transparency” of the process and increase public participation in the 2020 redistricting process, with some state jurisdictions even surpassing its requirements.
“This is a statewide problem that demands statewide solutions,” Heidorn noted. “The FMA has helped to produce maps that better reflect the state’s diverse communities.”