The County Voice

State Senate Maps Supremely Validated

The California Supreme Court confirmed that this year’s elections will make use of the maps drawn by the citizens redistricting commission. Today’s decision is here.

A group called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (or FAIR, which is good thinking on someone’s part), requested that the Court — just for the 2012 election — either retain the state Senate maps drawn in 2001 or else create new Senate maps out of every two adjacent Assembly districts (Assembly districts drawn by the same commission). The group also offered a third possibility: that the Court impose districts based on a maps drawn by the plaintiff’s consultant. Fair enough.

FAIR is widely reported to be a Republican-backed group (though its website goes to some length to describe itself and its mission as nonpartisan), and the California Republican Party chairman has repeatedly complained about the Senate maps. Most political consultants believe the new maps give Democrats a good chance of obtaining a 2/3 majority in the upper house.

FAIR has submitted signatures to overturn the commission’s Senate maps by referendum, and they argued before the Court that the new maps should be held up because their referendum was “likely to qualify” and therefore the new maps should be held until the voters decided the question.

Many county election offices opened on Sunday of a holiday weekend just to receive the referendum petitions, giving proponents an extra couple days to collect signatures. Even so, the signature count was low enough and the random sample of invalid signatures high enough that county election offices now must fully verify every signature submitted, a costly and time consuming process.

As the Court notes in its decision, “If the referendum qualifies, the new maps will automatically be stayed, presenting the questions of what Senate districts should be used for the 2012 primary and general elections of the state Senate.”

If a referendum qualifies and thereby automatically stays the use of the new maps, the decision of which maps to use in the interim is up to the California Supreme Court. In making that choice, they consider which maps are available and which are most constitutional. The Court’s decision today concluded that the commission’s maps fit those criteria best.

In short, if the commission’s maps are stayed, the Court orders the interim use of…the commission’s maps!

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