In November, California voters approved an overhaul of the state’s redistricting system, the once-a-decade process of drawing the boundaries of state lawmakers’ electoral districts.
Historically, state legislators had been in charge of the redistricting process, drawing the district boundaries in which they and others would run. The passage of Proposition 11 places that district-drawing power in the hands of a 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, chosen from a pool of citizen applicants with a history of regular voting.
“The main issue going forward is getting people to apply to the commission who are from all walks of life, who are representative of California, and who can bring their views to the commission.”
– Robert M. Stern, President of the Center for Governmental Studies
Many experts agree that if the new redistricting system is to succeed, it will require a broad-based pool of applicants to the new commission that reflects the state’s diversity, as well as broad public participation to inform the commission’s plans.
To help maximize public input in the Proposition 11 implementation process, the Common Cause Education Fund is beginning a wide range of outreach efforts to involve diverse constituencies. Under a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, Common Cause will seek to generate public interest and engagement in this vital political process.
Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause, said she views reform of the redistricting process as a key to making California state government — and the electorate — more reflective of the state as a whole.
“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we should invest our time and resources in ensuring that our government is more representative — and if you create districts that are more representative of communities, then you will elect people who reflect their communities,” Feng said.
“We are hoping to supplement the efforts of the State Auditor by organizing opportunities for people to find out about the commission, and nudging communities to pick their best and brightest to learn about the process and apply to the commission.”
Under Proposition 11, the State Auditor’s Office will spearhead commission implementation. The agency has launched a series of public scoping sessions, the front end of a multistage process designed to engage numerous Californians to provide input regarding this new process and the decision-making ahead.
The 14-member commission will be made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four members of neither party. Any frequent voter, with certain restrictions, can apply to serve on the commission. Applicants will be disqualified if they have previously been a candidate for office, elected official, political staff member, political consultant or lobbyist, or have a financial or family relationship with the governor or a state legislator.
Common Cause already has mobilized participation in the public hearing process, which began earlier this year. Future efforts will include outreach to a broad range of policy and community organizations, including Proposition 11 supporters and opponents alike, to encourage further participation and potential commission candidates, and work with the State Auditor’s Office in building the commission infrastructure.
Robert M. Stern, President of the Center for Governmental Studies, a nonprofit political reform organization that received Irvine Foundation funding to research redistricting reform, said that outreach efforts are crucial to the ultimate success of Proposition 11.
“The main issue going forward is getting people to apply to the commission who are from all walks of life, who are representative of California, and who can bring their views to the commission,” Stern said. “It’s only 14 members, but it can’t be 14 white males.
We’ll need to have a sufficient pool of applicants from which to choose. My hope is that the outreach will create some interest in the whole redistricting process.”
Common Cause is one of the organizations well positioned to reach out to a wide range of civic organizations and constituencies and encourage their involvement in this new process, said Amy Dominguez-Arms, Director of Irvine's California Perspectives program, which is administering the grant.
“The Irvine Foundation will be looking to support a range of outreach efforts so that all Californians have the opportunity to understand and weigh in on these important decisions ahead,” she said.
For more information about other redistricting outreach efforts that Irvine is supporting, click here.