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Redistricting complete, referendum challenge follows

August 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Feeling like politicians don't represent them, Californians approved initiatives giving citizens the power to redraw voting district lines. Now they might be asked to reject parts of that new plan.

An independent citizen panel has now done the job of redrawing all legislative and congressional districts in California, completed on Monday, and already a referendum seeks to invalidate the state senate lines.

Republicans fear Democrats will gain an advantage from the new maps.

No more squiggly lines drawn by politicians to ensure a safe seat for a particular party. Critics say that contributes to Sacramento gridlock.

"When it came to the senate maps, by failing to abide by the guidelines, they created these unwieldy, and frankly, unconstitutional districts," said Tom Del Beccaro, California Republican Party chairman.

"That uncertainty leaves party insiders shaking in their boots," said Kathay Feng, California Common Cause executive director.

California Common Cause thinks the referendum reflects how fearful the political establishment is of losing power.

The way the state senate districts are drawn now gives Democrats a shot of holding a two-thirds majority, enough to raise taxes.

"I think that there are a lot of people who are so used to a zero-sum game where they've always been able to win in this game of redistricting. They are sore losers," said Feng.

Tony Quinn, a Republican, helped draw political district lines in the 1970s and '80s.

After looking at the new maps, he believes the referendum makes a good argument.

"There was clearly some partisan games-playing in the drawing of the district lines in the Central Coast, where you had two marginal Republican districts and suddenly you have two safe Democratic ones," said Quinn.

"What these maps do is that they certainly have shaken up the political establishment," said Feng.

If referendum supporters gather more 505,000 valid signatures, voters will have a chance to throw out the new senate district lines and have the California Supreme Court redraw them.

The redistricting commission said everything was done in a transparent way and no partisanship was involved.

The new maps could also be subjected to a federal lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act. A number of Latino districts were reduced in the senate maps for the San Jose, San Fernando Valley and San Diego areas.


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