Thursday, May 28, 2015

How the lines are drawn meet two strong challenges

Rep. Eric Swalwell: One of the biggest winners
following the state's 2010 citizen-led redistricting.
PHOTO/Shane Bond
REDISTRICTING | The manner in which states decide how congressional district are drawn and exactly how many people represent each is facing stiff opposition.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether states like Arizona, California and four others can legally use non-partisan citizen commissions to draw congressional boundaries.

In California, following a state referendum in 2008, such a commission formed new lines based on population and regions with common attributes instead of the squiggly districts commonly used in the past to aid incumbents win re-election.

In addition, on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court also agreed to hear a Texas redistricting plan that challenges the "one person, one vote" standard used to divvy up congressional seats across the country. In its place, the Texas group argues the number should be based on the number of eligible voters, (i.e. citizens) in each district. 

According to some estimates, California's 53-person congressional delegation could shrink to 47, but the East Bay representative's lines appear relatively unchanged. Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data, LLC ran the numbers for each office in the Legislature and found most East Bay seats would shrink under the Texas redistricting plan. 

Catharine Baker (R-AD16) and Tony Thurmond (D-AD15) would shrink by 10 percent; Susan Bonilla (D-AD14) 7 percent; Rob Bonta (D-AD18) 3 percent. Bill Quirk (D-AD20), however, would grow by 3 percent.

In the State Senate, Loni Hancock's Ninth Senate District would shrink by 7 percent, Steve Glazer's Seventh District would decrease by 5 percent, but Bob Wieckowski's Tenth District would grow by 4 percent.

When it comes to the Arizona lawsuit, there is some fear the high court could strike down the citizen's commission method of drawing congressional lines as earlier as next month. A bill offered by Southern California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher is attempting a short-term solution to maintain the current lines. H.R. 2501, offered May 21, would keep the current boundaries in place, at least, until the next U.S. Census in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the biggest winners following the 2010 citizens' redistricting effort in California, is a co-sponsor of Rohrbacher's legislation.

The redrawn former Thirteenth Congressional District included a wealth of new and more moderate Tri Valley voters to the progressive Pete Stark's district. The new set of voters and a series of gaffes by Stark, a 40-year incumbent, opened the door for Swalwell's upset victory in 2012.


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