Election Reform

Redistricting Reform


Redistricting Commission Information

What is Redistricting Reform?

Prop 11 - California Voters First Initiative

Prop 20 - Expansion of Prop 11

Redistricting Resources

Upcoming Events


Redistricting Commission Information


If you would like to be added to an email list to recieve more information from the commission, fill out this form or call the commission hotline at 866-356-5217. For more information, visit www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov 


To learn more about the California Redistricting Commission and the Redistricting California Alliance visit www.redistrictingca.org

What is Redistricting Reform?


Every ten years, following the completion fo the United States Census, California's state and federal political districts are re-drawn.  Districts must be adjusted to changes in population demographics so that districts are equal in size.  In the past, this process has been completed by the Califonia State legislature.  This means that legislators have the ability to draw their own district boundries, dividing neighborhoods or groups of people in ways that benefit their own electoral needs. 


California Common Cause believes that neighborhoods and communities are best represented when their needs can be addressed by single representatives.  Districts that maintain the continuity of these communities of interest result in more accountable and responsive legislators who can better meet the needs of their constituents.  For that reason, California Common Cause has supported removing the conflict of interest that exists when legislators draw their own district boundaries and use political information to do it. 


Click here to read the Americans for Redistricting Reform summary of state reform efforts in 2009.


Our work on redistricting is guided by the following guidelines:

1. The Creation of Nonpartisan Independent Redistricting Commissions


  • Nonpartisan Independent Redistricting Commissions should be established to replace the current Congressional redistricting process and state legislative redistricting processes.
  • Nonpartisan Independent Redistricting Commissions could take several forms. In all instances, commissions should be made up of an odd number of members. Commissions should be structured so that if membership includes representatives from political parties that: no political party interests can advance a plan without support from other political parties; and, so that the two major political parties cannot collude to create a plan without support from other members not affiliated with either major political party.
  • Approval of redistricting plans shall require approval by a super-majority of the members or by consensus of the members of the Independent Redistricting Commission.
  • Independent Redistricting Commissions shall reflect the geographic, racial, ethnic, gender, and age diversity of the state.

2. Fair Criteria for Congressional and Legislative Districts


  • Congressional and legislative districts shall be composed of equalpopulations - The Supreme Court has interpreted the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as providing the guarantee of equal population of districts.



  • Districts shall comply with the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act - The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is a federal mandate that requires the drawing of special majority-minority districts under certain circumstances: where a minority population is large enough to draw a district around, and racially polarized voting patterns exist (i.e., racial groups voting for candidates along racial lines).


  • District boundaries shall respect communities of interest to the extent practicable- District lines shall use, to the extent practicable, visible geographic features; city, town, and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts, similarities in social, cultural, ethnic, and economic interest, school districts, and other formal relationships between municipalities.



  • Districts shall be geographically compact and contiguous- Compactness reflects the notion that districts should be composed of a tightly defined area so that representatives may be able to more efficiently communicate with their constituents. Contiguity requires that all parts of a district must be connected.



  • Competitive districts shall be favored - The commission shall make use of necessary election data in order to draw competitive congressional and legislative districts where practicable.


  • The redistricting process shall be "incumbent blind" - The commission shall not know nor take into account the address of any individual, including an officeholder.



3. Public Participation and Transparency

  • The Independent Redistricting Commission shall conduct several public hearings throughout the state on proposed plans, allowing for both comments and questions from members of the public. Regular meetings of the commission shall be open to the public and at least 10 days notice shall be given for all regular meetings of the commission.


  • All meetings regarding redistricting at which two or more members of the redistricting commission are in attendance shall be considered a public meeting and thus shall be open to members of the public and subject to adequate notice requirements (at least 72 hours).


  • All submitted maps, plans, revised plans, commission agendas, hearing transcripts, meeting minutes, descriptions of proposed districts, and other data shall be available in a timely fashion, free of charge, via a public website and other means.


  • Members of the Commission shall be prohibited from all ex-parte communications with members of the legislature, other elected officials, former elected officials, candidates for office, representatives of political parties and registered lobbyists regarding redistricting.

4. Frequency


  • Congressional and Legislative Redistricting shall occur once every 10 years following the decennial U.S. Census and Congressional Reapportionment, unless a new redistricting regime is approved by a vote of the people or the Independent Redistricting Commission is directed by court order to create a new plan.

5. Judicial Review


  • States should establish a system that allows for judicial review of plans and for a clear process for timely review in the event of legal challenges.


Other Considerations

Common Cause believes that states pursuing redistricting reforms should consider the creation of proportional representation systems and multi-member districts. Proportional representation systems can more accurately reflect the will of a district's voters by allowing voters in the minority to win a share of representation alongside voters in the majority.



Prop 11 - California Voters First


Click here to read the California Voters FIRST initiative.


Click here to read a summary of the Proposition 11 reforms from Americans for Redistricting Reform.

California Voters FIRST
November 2008 Redistricting Initiative Summary

I. Background: What is redistricting?

  • Every 10 years, after the census, the CA State Legislature draws new district lines for Congress and CA Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization.
  • The Legislature holds hearings to receive public input, but then goes behind closed doors to make the real deals.
  • The end result is “safe” districts for incumbents, protected from any competition, and comprised of the demographics they choose.

II. California Voters FIRST Overview: Create a Citizens Redistricting Commission

  • 14-Person Redistricting Commission (5 Democrats/5 Republicans/4 other).
  • Politically balanced among Democrats, Republicans, and others (other parties and decline to state).
  • Reflects our State’s ethnic, gender, and demographic diversity.

III. How is the Commission Chosen?

  • California registered voters invited to participate.
  • A pool of 60 (20D, 20R, 20o) is selected based on relevant analytical skills, ability to be impartial, and diversity by a review panel of state auditors (1D/1R/1o randomly selected by the California State Auditor).
  • The 4 Legislative leaders can each disqualify up to 2 in each category, resulting in a pool of at least 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans and 12 others.
  • 8 Commissioners are named through random drawing of the State Auditor (3D/3R/3o).
  • The 8 Commissions select the final 6 Commissioners (2D/2R/2o) from the remaining pool in order to complement the balance of skills and diversity.

IV. Mapping Criteria (in ranked order)


  • Districts shall comply with the US Constitution, including equal population requirements.
  • Districts shall comply with the Voting Rights Act.
  • Districts shall be geographically contiguous.
  • The geographic integrity of any city, county, or city and county, neighborhoods, or communities of interest shall be respected.
  • Communities of interest shall not be defined as relations with incumbents, candidates, or parties.
  • Districts shall be compact.
  • To the extent possible, after the above criteria have been satisfied, districts shall be nested.

 Incumbent residences may not be considered; districts may not be drawn to protect incumbents. 

V. Adoption of a Plan

  • 9 members shall represent a quorum.
  • 9 votes shall be required for any official action.
  • 9 votes (3D/3R/3o) are required to adopt a plan.
  • The Commission shall complete redistricting by a date-certain - September 30, XX11.
  • The final redistricting plan shall be subject to referendum.

VI. Scope

  • Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization seats will be drawn by the Commission in the next redistricting, 2011.
  • Congressional seats will be drawn by the state legislature, following the same mapping criteria and hearing requirements as the Commission.

Click here for a more detailed, two page summary.


Prop 20 - Expansion of Prop 11


Prop 20 passed. What does that mean?
Simply put, the Citizens Redistricting Commission, a body approved by voters in 2008, will now be drawing the Congressional districts in addition to the State Legislature and State Board of Equalization districts.

Who is the Citizens Redistricting Commission? Where are we with the selection?
We have completed the selections process. Find details about each commissioner here. Over 30,000 people put their name in the hat for consideration. The big pool has been narrowed to 60 finalists by the Applicant Review Panel of the Bureau of State Audits. We have a few more steps for the finalists to be narrowed to the 14 Commissioners. We should know who the 14 Commissioners will be by December 31, 2010. If you want to find out all the details about who is in the pool, you can check out: www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

What is the timeline for the state redistricting work to be done?
• January 12, 2011: The Citizens Redistricting Commission meets for the first time. Find details at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov

• By March 31, 2011: The California Census numbers will probably come out. The Commission should have hearings to listen to the public about their communities and where to draw the lines.
• By August 15, 2011, the Citizens Redistricting Commission will need to approve the new maps for Congressional districts (probably 53 districts), the State Senate (40 districts), State Assembly (80 districts) and State Board of Equalization (4 districts).


Redistricting Resources


Redistricting Conference materials from March 31, 2011

We Draw the Lines, the commission's webpage for infomation about Caifornia's FIRST Citizens Redistricting Commission.


Redistricting Conference materials from March 31, 2011

Citizens Redistricting Commission Information Sheet.

The "Redistricting Game" from USC's Annenberg Center


The California Voter Foundation


Center for Governmental Studies' Redistricting Reform Research


National Council of State Legislatures' State Redistricting Commissions Chart.

Statewide Database at Berkeley Law - the Redistricting Database for the State of California


The Rose Institute's Redistricting Reform Research (Claremont McKenna College)


U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 redistricting data prototype.

Redistricting Reform Polling Results - results from a recent poll on redistricting.

Designer Districts Report - report on drawing safe districts for incumbents.

Redistricting Research Site of the Institute of Governmental Studies - two reports on redistricting, one on competition in districts and the other on transparency, as well as other redistricting data.

Statement from Kathay Feng, Executive Director - 8/11/06 statement of Kathay Feng to the Government Reform Conference Committee.

Commonwealth Club Letter of Support for Redistricting Reform - 7/19/06 coalition letter to the Governor, supporting redistricting reform.

Commonwealth Club Senate Letter of Support for Redistricting Reform - 5/31/06 coalition letter to the Senate, supporting redistricting reform.


Upcoming Events


The State Auditor has planned several meetings to figure out how best to create a state citizens’ redistricting commission.  At the top of the list – the State Auditor wants to hear the public’s input on how to conduct outreach and how to set up the process of selecting the redistricting commission to ensure it is diverse, qualified and independent.


To view a video of the San Diego hearing, follow this link: http://www.copswiki.org/twiki/bin/view/Common/M727



For details about these upcoming  hearings, visit our events pages:


Los Angeles Redistricting Commission Meeting


San Francisco Bay Area Redistricting Commission Meeting


Sacramento Redistricting Commission Meeting