Supreme Court could throw redistricting back to Legislature

Loretta SanchezCalifornia’s redistricting reforms could be revoked by the U.S. Supreme Court for congressional races in a case involving similar reforms in Arizona. State legislative races would not be affected, only races for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Proposition 11, the 2008 initiative voters passed, created the Citizens Redistricting Commission to apportion state legislative and congressional districts. It was modified slightly by Proposition 20 in 2010.

The reforms occurred after numerous gerrymandering abuses when the Legislature drew districts to benefit incumbents. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, R-Garden Grove, in 2002 described how it worked for the redistricting after the 2000 U.S. Census. She told the Orange County Register she and other legislators paid $20,000 to Michael Berman, the redistricting consultant to the majority Democrats in the California Legislature who drew up the districts. She called it an “incumbent protection plan.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, on Monday the court heard arguments in a suit “that Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature has brought. The legislators want the justices to rule that only elected state lawmakers, not voters or an independent citizens commission, may draw the boundaries of districts for members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

At issue are the words of the Constitution, “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”

Defenders of the redistricting reforms insist an initiative is a kind of legislative act by the people.

But those bringing the lawsuit insist there’s nothing in there about taking a vote of the people. Although the Founding Fathers probably didn’t intend for the severe gerrymandering that has occurred in recent years.

Another factor is the “one man one vote” Supreme Court rulings of 50 years ago, such as the 1962 Baker v. Carr case, disallowed districts not strictly apportioned by population. Before that, legislatures could make districts along geographic lines, with some districts more populous than others.

The court is expected to decide the Arizona case before June. That means it could affect the 2016 election, with the Legislature itself redrawing the districts.

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles,, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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