SAN FRANCISCO— The first batch of political maps by California’s new Citizens Redistricting Commission is not sitting well with the state's Latino civil rights advocates.
Growing concern over the proposed maps has left Latinos frustrated and angry.
“The proposed congressional maps create a worse-case scenario for Latinos in California,” declared Rosalind Gold, senior director of policy, research and advocacy at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund in Los Angeles. “They do not reflect the growth of the Latino population in the state over the past 10 years.”
"This is disappointing and frustrating because we went from one extreme in the redistricting process to another, but still have not increased the voice of the second-largest group in the state," said Steven Ochoa, national redistricting coordinator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
According to 2010 Census data, Latinos accounted for 90 percent of California’s population growth since 2000. But the draft map only includes seven Latino "opportunity districts" out of 53 congressional districts—the same number as currently held by Latinos.
“When you look at the combined number of districts statewide that would be effective Latino districts, we could actually end up with fewer than what we have now,” Gold said. She said the map appears to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Commission is now soliciting public comment on the draft districts and had this statement on their website:
California voters created a Citizens Redistricting Commission in order to be able to elect more accountable Legislative and Congressional representatives. In the past, district lines were drawn behind closed doors, producing districts which divided communities, sometimes running hundreds of miles in indescribable shapes, with their only purpose being the protection of incumbents. The Commission prepared these drafts maps without regard to current districts, incumbents, candidates or political parties
Now a Citizens Commission is drawing districts in a transparent process, adhering to a rank-ordered set of criteria that is designed to produce sensible and fair districts. The Commission has asked the public to join them on this journey and has held 23 input hearings throughout the state, receiving testimony from 1,533 Californians. Thousands more have submitted testimony online, by fax and in the mail.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission has heard people in every corner of the state describe the characteristics of their communities and what makes them distinct and unique. They shared their thoughts on what other communities they would like included in their districts and which communities should not be included. A constant theme was their hope that the Commission succeeds and delivers on the promise of true reform.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission releases the first preliminary district maps based on balancing the needs of all Californians. These preliminary maps restore integrity to California's Constitutional mandate to redistrict to ensure fair representation. Where possible, the Commission worked to keep communities whole to maximize their voices under these proposed districts.
These maps have three advantages over existing districts:
1) Districts are drawn without regard to political incumbents and partisan considerations.
2) Districts reflect geographic and common sense boundaries.
3) The districts balance the needs of different communities of interest across California.
In contrast to previous redistricting, the Citizens Commission is releasing draft maps long before its final August 15th deadline, giving the public time to collaborate with the Commission to develop final maps that truly represent California. That is why the Commission will hold another round of public input hearings in June and will welcome written comment by e-mail, fax and mail.