Voting Rights Organizations Sponsor Bill Aiming to End Local Gerrymandering in California

AB 1248 prioritizes people and communities over sitting incumbents by requiring a politically independent redistricting process for local jurisdictions throughout the state

Sacramento, CA – A coalition of voting rights organizations announced it is sponsoring a bill to end gerrymandering in California by requiring local jurisdictions to implement independent redistricting commissions ahead of the 2030 redistricting cycle. 

Introduced by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D–Culver City) and Senator Ben Allen (D–Santa Monica), AB 1248 would require all counties, cities, school districts, and community college districts with a population over 300,000 to establish an independent redistricting commission before March 1, 2030. Jurisdictions which fail to establish their own independent redistricting commission by the deadline would be required to utilize a more detailed default commission structure, rules, and procedures. The coalition sponsoring the bill includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California, California Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters of California.

Independent redistricting commissions have been successfully used at the state level for two consecutive cycles via the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, and in key local jurisdictions, like Los Angeles County, San Diego County, The City of San Diego, The City of Long Beach, and The City of Sacramento. A major report evaluating California’s 2020 local redistricting cycle recently found that independent commissions lead the most participatory, most inclusive, and most transparent redistricting processes in the state. By contrast, the most manipulative, most self-serving, and least participatory processes were all run by sitting incumbents. 

“Independent commissions are the key to ensuring the redistricting process works in the best interest of the people, not power-hungry politicians,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause. “A politically independent process gives communities the tools to be properly represented in their districts, without backroom deals and gerrymandering stifling our democracy.”

The urgent need for redistricting reform was most recently demonstrated by leaked audio recordings of councilmembers in Los Angeles discussing the Los Angeles advisory commission, which revealed racist remarks, attempts to intentionally undercut the power of communities of color, and line-drawers strategically including economic assets into their districts for their own personal gain. 

“The failure of the Los Angeles city council in late 2021 to protect our voting rights and respect the redistricting process showcased the dire need to establish fair and independent voting commissions. California deserves fair maps that strengthen protections, representation, and champion the needs of the Asian Pacific Islander community [and other previously disenfranchised communities].” said Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California. “AB 1248 is a necessary bill to ensure that district maps are drawn fairly, accurately, and for the people – not politicians.” 

The redistricting report also reveals the many under-the-radar examples of local gerrymandering that did not garner significant press attention. In the Central Valley, both the Democratic-controlled Fresno City Council and the Republican-controlled Fresno Board of Supervisors both ignored public testimony from historically disenfranchised communities to draw district lines to keep incumbents in power. Fresno County is alleged to have split the county’s Latino community, Black community, Hmong community, Muslim community, and Punjabi community, all in pursuit of minimizing change to districts and maximizing the likelihood of reelection for the county’s Supervisors. 

“Californians deserve district maps drawn by fair and independent commissions rather than by political incumbents who place their self-interest above the interest of the people,” said Carol Moon Goldberg, President of the League of Women Voters of California. “This bill is a critical step forward to ensure that voters are able to elect representatives who will promote the welfare of their communities.”

Additionally, AB 1248 would prohibit commissioners from engaging in ex parte communications and require the State Auditor to help connect applicants to the state commission who are no longer being considered with potential opportunities to serve on local redistricting commissions, in order to promote large and diverse commissioner pools. 

To read The Promise of Fair Maps, click here

To read the text of AB 1248, click here.