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The California Citizens Redistricting Commission today gave what amounts to final approval of new political district maps, with only the commissioner from Orange County opposing all of them.
Michael Ward, a Fullerton chiropractor and Republican, said the 14-member commission paid too much attention to race and “communities of interest,” which includes concentrations of ethnic groups, when making its decisions.
“I’m sad to find myself compelled to vote no,” he said just before the vote on districts for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“In my opinion,” he said, “the commission failed to fulfill its mandate to strictly apply constitutional criteria and consistently applied race and ‘community of interest’ criteria and sought to diminish dissenting viewpoints.”
He didn’t list specifics and declined to be interviewed by telephone following the meeting.
Federal voting rights laws forbid splitting racial and ethnic groups to prevent them from electing candidates.
Ward voted against all of the statewide maps drawn by the commission, which included boundaries affecting the Assembly, state Senate, Board of Equalization and the House.
One other Republican on the panel, lawyer Jodie Filkins Webber of Norco, also voted against the House maps. Filkins Webber’s law office is in Orange County.
The panel, created by voters last November, has five Republicans, five Democrats and four without party affiliations.
The vote on the final preliminary maps was 13-1 on the state Legislature and Board of Equalization maps and 12-2 on the House maps.
The commission votes are not absolutely final because the public must have 14 days to view the maps and comment before the final vote. The maps are posted on the commission’s website.
The final vote will come Aug. 15, after which the maps will be sent to the Secretary of State. After that, groups that oppose the maps can challenge them in court or by referendum. Conservative Republicans and several minority groups have indicated they may challenge the final district lines.
The new maps give Orange County seven instead of the current six House members. The county would continue to have five state senators, but its number of Assembly members would drop from nine to seven.
Commissioner Michelle R. DiGuilio of Stockton, one of those with no party affiliation, voted for all of the maps, although she said Sunday she would vote against the maps for House districts.
DiGuillio broke into tears Sunday when other commissioners balked at taking time to consider different boundaries for west Los Angeles County House districts. African American leaders had opposed the kind of boundaries she was suggesting and other commissioners said they already had considered and rejected much of what she was suggesting.
In the end the commission agreed to review the west Los Angeles County districts, although they didn’t vote to adopt the plans DiGuillio suggested.
Today, DiGuillio said of the House maps, “There was a lot of emotion last week …, a good deal of it coming from me.”
But she praised the commission for taking the time to consider her concerns, saying “the will of the commission was done. The process has worked. The people were best served.”
Voter approval of the new redistricting process came after 2001 boundaries were drawn under an agreement between Republicans and Democrats to protect incumbents, a process known as gerrymandering. New boundaries are drawn every 10 years after the national census.
Unlike the old system, commissioners drew political boundaries in public and included suggestions from the public and political groups.
In addition to the statewide maps, the boundaries of Orange County’s five supervisorial districts also are being redrawn. But that process is following traditional procedures, with aides to the supervisors drawing boundaries in private.
— TRACY WOOD
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