As a member of the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission, I am proud of the work we did to produce fair and representative legislative and Congressional districts for the people. In a mere eight months the first ever Citizens Commission set up a new state organization, hired staff and consultants, held 34 public input meetings -- hearing from over 2,700 speakers and received over 20,000 comments in writing -- and drew lines that complied with the law and reflected the integrity and diversity of our populously and geographically mammoth state.
Since the time we certified our final districts on Aug. 15, the Commission's maps have consistently been upheld as compliant with the U.S. and California Constitutions, the California Voters First Act and the Federal Voting Rights Act. Just this week the U.S. Department of Justice pre-cleared the Commission's maps for the four counties under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Justice had no objection to the Commission's deliberative and careful process and its ensuing product in the Section 5 counties. Earlier the California Supreme Court, on a unanimous 7-0 vote, upheld the Commission's maps against challenges from a partisan organization.
What this all means is that at the end of the day the people's will matters. In 2008, long frustrated by the legislature's redistricting process which essentially protected incumbents, voters created the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Their hope was that an independent group of citizens would end partisan gerrymandering and hear the voices of communities and draw districts that were representative of the people not the political parties.
The Commission conducted the most transparent and open process in the state's history. All of our meetings, including line drawing sessions, were held in public, live-streamed on the web and archived on our website. In the past the legislature drew lines behind closed doors out of the light of day.
One of the most startling differences from the redistricting of the past is the number of incumbents displaced from their current districts or put in districts with other incumbents or in more competitive districts. Since 2002, in 765 legislative and Congressional races, only five changed parties.
California's experiment with redistricting reform worked. It proved that at the end of the day interested and engaged voters can dramatically change government for the good of the people. As we look at other states who continue to be mired in partisan redistricting there are a many lessons learned in the California model. Hopefully those other states will heed those lessons and reinvent the process here so that it is relevant to their state leading to reform their redistricting processes across the United States. In so doing we as a nation can take a large step toward restoring the people's trust and confidence in their political systems.
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