What is Redistricting and Why Should Our Community Care?
Redistricting is the once-in-a- decade opportunity to redraw the State’s legislative districts. This single act may do more to influence the make-up of the Legislature and its agenda over the next 10 years than all of the elections during that period combined. Every single policy issue is affected by who is elected to the Legislature, and every single legislative election for the next decade is affected by redistricting. It’s that simple.
For the first time, this critical task will not be performed by elected officials but by a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. Those communities that participate will have more power to shape the state than ever before; those that do not will allow others to decide who will represent them for the next decade.
What is the Citizens Redistricting Commission?
The newly formed 14-member Commission will consist of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 individuals who are Independents or members of a third party. The goal is to create a commission that is representative of California’s diversity including racial, ethnic, geographic, economic, and gender characteristics. The Commission will be selected in 2010 and will do most of its work to redraw State Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalizations districts in 2011.
How Can Members of Our Community Apply?
Applications will be accepted by the State from December 15, 2009 to February 12, 2010. Applicants must provide background information, answer four short essay questions about their qualifications and interest in serving, and gather three letters of recommendation. The top applicants will be asked to participate in interviews in the summer, and final selections will be announced in December 2010.
Applicants should know that serving on the Commission will not be a full-time job, but it will require a significant time commitment in 2011, especially between May and September. Members will receive $300 for each day they undertake redistricting business. No employer can terminate, punish, intimidate, coerce, retaliate against or threaten an employee for serving on the Commission or missing work for Commission business.
Additional information, as well as the online application when it becomes available, can be found at: www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.
What Types of People from Our Community Can Serve?
A person must (1) have been registered continuously with the same political party for at least 5 years; and (2) have voted in 2 out of the last 3 state general elections.
Prior experience with redistricting, while beneficial, is not a requirement to be on the Commission.
Applicants who can demonstrate through their previous experience some or all of the following skills will have a much greater chance of being selected:
* Strong analytical and fact-gathering skills;
* An ability to read and understand technical information, such as statistics and maps;
* Familiarity with computers and software programs;
* Strong communication skills, an ability to work well in groups and participate in public hearings;
* An ability to understand legal standards;
* An understanding of California’s diverse demographics and geography; and,
* An ability to be impartial.
Who from Our Community Can’t Serve?
Staff or consultants (or immediate family members) to the Governor or any member of the Legislature, Congress, or State Board of Equalization, or anyone under contract with any of those governmental entities, cannot serve. In addition, an individual cannot serve who, in the last 10 years, has done any of the following:
* Run for or been elected to federal or state office;
* Been appointed to a board or commission by the Governor, a Legislator, or Member of Congress;
* Served as an officer, employee, or consultant of a political party or candidate campaign for state or federal office;
* Served as a member of a political party central committee;
* Been a registered lobbyist;
* Served as paid congressional, legislative, or Board of Equalization staff; or
* Contributed $2,000 or more to a candidate running for local, state, or congressional office.
Who from Our Community Should Be Encouraged to Apply?
It is important that individuals who apply for the Commission understand how important redistricting is to enhancing or diminishing the political power of individual communities. Potential commissioners need to understand that redistricting is not a simple process of drawing circles and squares. Redistricting is a nuanced process that requires time and attention to fairly balance the different interests of various communities.
Below are just some of the professions or experiences that might make one well qualified to serve:
* Community and labor organizers;
* Social activists;
* Local elected officials;
* Locally-appointed board and commission members;
* College professors and administrators;
* Professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, and financial analysts;
* Information technology analysts and other computer experts;
* Demographers, journalists, and researchers; and
* State and local government employees who routinely work with the public or analyze technical or legal materials.
Individuals whose primary activities have been at the statewide level are much more likely to have disqualifying conflicts. Therefore, communities that encourage local community leaders to apply are more likely to be successful.
It is important to remember that the Commission must reflect the State’s diversity, including its racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity. Therefore, communities that encourage a diverse range of members to apply are also more likely to be successful.
Finally, the Commission must consist of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 individuals who have not registered with either party. Therefore, communities that can recruit strong candidates in all three groups and encourage them to apply are more likely to gain representation on the Commission.