Five Key Principles for Fixing Los Angeles’ Broken Redistricting System
California Common Cause identifies essential elements of a trustworthy and truly independent redistricting commission for the City of Los Angeles
As the City of Los Angeles begins the community conversation to create an independent redistricting commission (IRC), California Common Cause has outlined five essential elements that must be prioritized if the commission is to be truly independent and worthy of the public’s trust. The announcement comes following the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst’s (CLA) release of its comprehensive report on the topic.
The CLA’s report provides the City Council with a range of options for both establishing an IRC and expanding the council. As one of the architects of California’s statewide Citizens Redistricting Commission and one of the leading advocates for independent redistricting in local communities, California Common Cause will continue to advocate for the core precepts necessary for a truly independent and meaningful redistricting process. This is informed by our monitoring of over 60 local jurisdictions during the most recent redistricting process, culminating in a detailed redistricting report about local redistricting in California and how to do it well.
Moving forward, five key principles must guide Los Angeles’s redistricting reform process. These are essential ingredients of a redistricting commission worthy of the City of LA and its communities:
- Independence. The redistricting commission must use a commissioner selection and appointment process that involves no role for elected officials (similar to the state CRC and local redistricting commissions across CA). Robust conflicts of interest criteria must be used to identify and disqualify applicants who are too close to the city’s elected officials and political parties (again, similar to the state CRC and local redistricting commissions across CA). The commission should have independent counsel and staff. Critically, the commission must have the final vote and authority to enact district maps.
- Community-centered map-drawing criteria. Impartial and community-centered line-drawing criteria are used by the state CRC and local independent redistricting commissions across California. These make keeping communities and neighborhoods whole a top priority and should be adopted. Backdoor methods of protecting incumbency — like preservation of existing district cores and minimizing change — must not be included. Partisan and racial gerrymandering should be prohibited.
- Transparent and participatory process. An IRC in Los Angeles must be fully transparent and should lead a redistricting process that is inclusive and participatory. There must be ample public input hearings across the City’s many neighborhoods and conducted in the City’s many languages. To ensure transparency and public trust, there must be a complete ban on ex parte communications by the commissioners on how district lines should be drawn; all communications with commissioners about how the map should be drawn must be in public and on the record.
- Reforms with accountability. An IRC must be able to undergo responsive evolution over time. To protect the IRC from meddling and politicalization as that evolution occurs, any future amendments made must further the purpose and intent of an independent redistricting commission (and if not, face challenge in court) and must require the favorable vote of a super-majority of both the City Council and then-sitting IRC.
- Council expansion. It is time for the size of the Los Angeles City Council to be more representative of the diverse population of the City. We support Council expansion that is evaluated every decade and adjusted based on significant population growth.
THE PROMISE OF FAIR MAPS
California’s 2020 Local Redistricting Cycle: Lessons Learned and Future Reforms
With the 2020 local redistricting cycle concluded, our report takes a step back to evaluate the effectiveness of the FAIR MAPS Act and related independent redistricting commission reforms in encouraging meaningful public participation and promoting the adoption of maps that better reflect and empower a jurisdiction’s diverse communities.
The report explores five key areas of the redistricting process — timing, transparency of the process, public participation in the process, line-drawing criteria, and the use of independent and advisory redistricting commissions — that significantly changed this cycle compared with prior cycles.
Serving as the report of record for the 2020 redistricting cycle, The Promise of Fair Maps proposes solutions to the biggest issues identified for creating an inclusive and participatory democracy through redistricting.
Sponsored by California Common Cause, AB 1248 prioritizes people and communities over sitting incumbents by requiring a politically independent redistricting process for local jurisdictions throughout the state.