Since the passage of the Voters First Act in 2008, California has utilized the California Citizens’ Redistricting Commission (CCRC), a panel of 14 members tasked with the drawing of the State Assembly, State Senate, and Board of Equalization lines. The passage of the Voters First Act for Congress in 2010 gave the CCRC the additional responsibility of drawing the lines for congress. The 14 members include five Democrats, five Republicans, and four decline-to-state individuals or members of other parties and are rigorously screened for political ties and conflicts of interest to ensure the commissioners are unbiased in addition to being well-qualified.
The CCRC are required to adhere to the following ranked map-drawing principles: geographic contiguity, geographic integrity (minimizing the splitting of cities, counties, neighborhoods, and communities of interest,16 compactness, and nesting (two Assembly districts within each senate district, and 10 senate districts within each Board of Equalization district, where practicable).
Community of Interest Story
Significant and historical work was done to build the political power of Black, African, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (BAMEMSA) refugee and immigrant communities in the San Diego region. The Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) conducted a broad and sweeping campaign to engage the BAMEMSA community in census and redistricting advocacy by engaging in multilingual (Arabic, Dari, Oromo, Pashto, Somali, and Swahili) workshops and equipping people with the technological and legal savvy to self-advocate.
The absence of a Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) census category has thrown roadblocks in BAMEMSA advocacy – the lack of this category essentially whitewashes this community, as people of MENA descent are forced to select the white category, though they may not identify with that categorization, and Black Africans may not feel the Black category best reflects their identity. (Of note, from January to April 2023, the Census Bureau sought public feedback on the potential addition of a MENA category in future federal demographic questionnaires, among other potential race and ethnicity data collection changes.)
Under the 2011 maps, the BAMEMSA communities at all levels of government were split. As a result of PANA’s advocacy on the 2021 maps, BAMEMSA communities of interest (COIs) are kept whole in Congressional districts, all but one COI are united in the Assembly, and over 90% of PANA’s mapped COIs are united within a single San Diego County Supervisorial District.
Overall State Grade: A-
Significant public engagement: This cycle, organizers noted a significant increase in public engagement. At the state level, there were over 30,000 written comments and nearly 4,000 verbal comments submitted.18 Due to the significant amount of public engagement, organizers noted that next cycle, more of a systematized effort to aggregate and summarize feedback would be helpful to incorporate public input into the final maps.
- Successful advocacy at state level: Broadly, organizers found that the final state maps did respect and reflect communities of interest. For example, organizers cited successful advocacy for Latinx communities in the Central Valley, Inland Empire, San Fernando Valley, and Orange County. Further, organizers found that, in the process of working through COI mapping, communities worked to bridge differences, identify common problems, and envision common goals, including how to gain electoral power. Some of this work inspired further advocacy beyond redistricting, for example, language accessibility advocacy inspired organizing for increased language accessibility for other government resources.
- Improve transparency: Many of those interviewed expressed disappointment that the racially polarized voting (RPV) analyses were not fully shared. Although some heatmaps were shared, advocates stressed that even if not all of the material could be shared, summaries of findings and shapefiles could have been released. Though no legal transparency requirements were violated, advocates also felt that the mapping process could have been easier to follow as some advocates had to email the commission periodically for more information to understand what was happening. Some advocates noted that earlier posting of policies, hearings, and maps would have been helpful, especially in formats that were easily findable and searchable by the public.
- Establish independent redistricting commissions (IRCs) at the local level: Local redistricting processes functioned more fairly and engaged the public far better when using an independent redistricting commission. Many organizers noted that many local jurisdictions without an IRC appeared to violate the FAIR MAPS Act and were hostile to public input. Advisory commissions also fared poorly. A recent report released by a coalition of civil rights groups outlines this more thoroughly and provides additional recommendations for reform.