California Common Cause: LA City Council Must Immediately Act to Create a Fully Independent Redistricting Commission

Should the City Council fail to take action, California Common Cause will move to put independent redistricting on the 2024 ballot

In the wake of leaked audio of Los Angeles City leaders making racist comments and planning behind-the-scenes gerrymandering of LA’s City Council districts, California Common Cause demands the Council take decisive action to reform its redistricting process immediately. 

At today’s City Council meeting, Council leadership announced they will discuss the possibility of putting a measure on the 2024 ballot to create an independent redistricting commission. Such commissions have proven successful in our state redistricting process, LA County’s redistricting process, and in cities across California. If Council does not act to create an independent redistricting commission, California Common Cause will begin mobilizing to put an independent redistricting commission on the ballot. Whether change comes from Council or from the voters, Angelenos will have the equitable redistricting and representation they deserve. 

The unfolding scandal shines a light on what a redistricting process looks like under the control of incumbents and exemplifies why the drawing of district lines should not be left to political appointees or elected bodies, but to community-driven independent commissions. 

California Common Cause monitored the redistricting processes of 60+ local jurisdictions in 2020-2022. Of those jurisdictions, the ones that led the most participatory, most inclusive, most transparent, and most fair processes were all run by independent redistricting commissions. The ones that led the most manipulative, most self-serving, and least participatory processes were all run by sitting incumbents.

Our advocacy is not new. Last October, California Common Cause called for an independent redistricting commission in the City of Los Angeles in a 10-page letter, which cited the widely reported exploitation and manipulation of the City’s advisory redistricting commission by the City Council.  

California Common Cause unequivocally condemns the anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, racist, and homophobic comments made behind closed doors by Los Angeles City leaders Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León, and former LA Labor Federation President Ron Herrera. We join the call of many others for those elected lawmakers to step down for the good of the City.

Statement of California Common Cause Executive Director Jonathan Mehta Stein 

“As Californians, we have long embraced the challenge of building a democracy where everyone participates and everyone’s voice is heard. That doesn’t just mean expanding access to the ballot. It also means having fair district maps that give all of us a voice.  

For too long, power-hungry local officials on both sides of the aisle have sliced and diced our communities to manipulate our elections and keep themselves and their allies in power. Gerrymandering isn’t just a problem for other states – it happens here, too, and now we have audio evidence of what it sounds like in California. 

As the leaked LA tapes illustrate, a partisan redistricting process also perpetuates the systemic racism that deprives communities of color of the power and representation they deserve, and along with them, the strong schools, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing they need to thrive. In a state as diverse as California, incumbent-run redistricting often pits neighborhoods and communities against one another.  

We stand with LA communities seeking accountability. We also acknowledge nothing will change in 2030 as long as a broken redistricting system allows our communities to be used as pawns of those in power. 

We are calling on the City Council to create a fully independent and nonpartisan redistricting commission in the City of Los Angeles, modeled off of the many successful independent commissions around California. Should the City Council fail to put a fully independent redistricting commission on the 2024 ballot or create one via ordinance, California Common Cause will move to put one on the 2024 ballot.” 

Statement of Common Cause National Redistricting Director Kathay Feng 

“In California, we believe the purpose of redistricting is to create voting maps that are drawn in the best interest of our neighborhoods and communities, not the incumbents in power. 

That’s why we were the first state in the country to create a statewide independent redistricting commission to draw districts for the U.S. House of Representatives and the state legislature. After its second successful redistricting cycle, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission saw zero legal challenges against its district maps – practically unheard of around the nation. That’s because independent commissions center the voices of regular people in the redistricting process and help build an inclusive and participatory democracy.

When bigotry and power intersect, as they did here, we must address both the racist comments, but also the political institutions that protect those incumbents. Only an independent redistricting commission can ensure that councilmembers are fully accountable to their constituents and that resources are distributed equitably. 

Common Cause is committed to helping put power back where it belongs – in the hands of the people.”