Why it matters
Democracy depends on voters having the opportunity to choose their representatives. When elected officials draw district lines, they get to design their own territory and choose who votes for them. This distorts representative democracy. It leads to racially discriminatory manipulation that weakens the voting strength of targeted communities, and to partisan manipulation that favors one political party over another. The League believes that districts should be drawn by politically independent special commissions that use fair criteria to help keep communities intact and to ensure that everyone is equally represented.
What is Redistricting?
Each state and federal lawmaker represents people who live in a specific election “district.” Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission adjusts the maps for these election districts and redraws the boundary lines to make sure each district has about the same number of people (a process called “redistricting”). Gerrymandering happens when the election district boundaries are drawn in a way that gives a particular set of people - like a political party or racial group, an unfair political advantage over another. The League opposes gerrymandering. We were leaders in the movement to create California’s independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in order to ensure that the process is transparent, the players are accountable, partisanship is minimized, and our election district maps are drawn fairly. Furthermore, we built in rules to guarantee that Commission members reflect California’s diversity.
How You’re Represented in U.S. and State Government
What we are doing
The League works for fair maps at every level of government. California’s state-level independent, non-partisan redistricting system has garnered national recognition. Unfortunately, local gerrymandering persists.
Local Redistricting. Redistricting is most commonly associated with redrawing state legislative or congressional districts. But lines have to be redrawn at all levels of government where lawmakers are elected by-district, including local offices like city council or school board. Because we have seen incumbents in California use the local line-drawing process to disenfranchise growing racial and language minority communities, and to reduce the voting power of political minorities, we advocate for legislation to ensure that fair maps are drawn for local elections.
- The Fair Maps Act, AB 849, brings fair redistricting criteria to California’s cities and counties. It prohibits partisan gerrymandering, standardizes criteria, and prioritizes intact neighborhoods and diverse communities. This new law represents an extension of the LWVUS’ recently launched People Powered Fair Maps Campaign, a coordinated effort to reform redistricting across the country.
- The People’s Map Act, SB 139, which was regrettably vetoed by Governor Newsom, would have required large counties to create independent redistricting commissions to draw district lines.
- In 2016, we co-sponsored legislation (SB 1108) to authorize all California counties and general law cities to establish independent citizen commissions to redraw district lines, instead of leaving this power to electorally self-interested incumbents.
- In 2018, we supported SB 1018, which clarified the original intent of SB 1108 on two matters:
-Commissions may be used for an initial districting and not simply a redistricting.
-Hybrid commissions, where both the local government and commission share authority in adopting final maps, must meet the same standards of independence and transparency required of independent commissions.
What you can do
- Starting in 2020, the Fair Maps Act will require that criteria be followed to promote an open and transparent redistricting process.
- Coming in Summer of 2020: Keep checking this site for a Fair Maps Act Toolkit that will offer guidance as to how to ensure that the new law is being implemented in your jurisdiction.
- Regardless of what the rules and notice requirements are, you can advocate locally for an independent body to do the line-drawing and for extensive public input and recognition of neighborhoods and communities of interest.
- Find out who is drawing the maps for districts and what information, besides the census, is being used to make decisions about where lines should be drawn.
Start your inquiry with these government agencies:
-County Clerk or Registrar of Voters
-County Superintendent of Schools
-County Counsel, City Clerk, City Attorney, or Special District Managers
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