The People’s Maps Act Passes the California Senate

SACRAMENTO — California Common Cause today applauded the state Senate for passing SB 139, the People’s Maps Act, a reform aimed at ending gerrymandering at the county level. The bill requires counties with 250,000 or more residents to establish independent redistricting commissions to draw district lines for boards of supervisors using fair, community-centered criteria. 

“Partisan and racially discriminatory gerrymandering has no place in our democracy, at any level of government,” said Rey López-Calderón, executive director of California Common Cause. “We thank the Senate for taking this important step and encourage the Assembly to show its support for fair maps.”

The People’s Maps Act (SB 139) 

Sponsored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the People’s Maps Act establishes a fair process for redistricting in California’s largest counties. Modeled off the requirements already in place for State redistricting, SB 139: 

  • Requires counties with populations of more than 250,000 residents to establish independent citizens redistricting commissions. 
  • Insists commissions meet strict conflict-of-interest standards designed to ensure commissioner independence. 
  • Creates robust opportunities for public participation and transparency in the line-drawing process. 
  • Prohibits gerrymandering, the use of partisan voting data to draw district lines. 

State laws passed in 2008 and 2010 by voters require statewide and congressional districts be drawn once a decade by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, an independent group of qualified citizens from across the state who are dedicated to a transparent and nonpartisan process. But there are very few requirements to prevent gerrymandering at the local level.  

While most local elections are nonpartisan, the politicians in power are the people who draw the district lines. This leads to districts that favor incumbents and their allies and has led to local governments that are highly unrepresentative and less accountable to their constituents. For example, 40 percent of Californians identify as Latino, but only 10 percent of county supervisors and 15 percent of city councilmembers identify as Latino, according to a 2015 NALEO study.  

Today, more than a dozen California cities and counties now use fair redistricting commissions, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara counties.

MALDEF, League of Women Voters of California, League of Conservation Voters and Voices for Progress are among the supporters of the bill. Read their quotes here.