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Scott Thomas Wilk: Redistricting: The SCV must remain vigilant

Right Here, Right Now!

Posted: July 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
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Anything that makes government more transparent and accountable, I support.

That is why I joined the majority of Californians in voting for Proposition 11 and Proposition 20. These propositions wrestled control of redistricting away from the state Legislature and established an independent commission to draw new boundaries for legislative districts.

Historically, the process has gone like this: Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census and updates the state’s demographic information, and then the Legislature draws new political boundaries for Congress, the state Senate and state Assembly.

Clearly, there is a built-in bias in this system, and it cried out for reform.

The redistricting plan of 2001 is the most poignant example. The two major parties cut a deal to lock in their seats. What it did was disenfranchise every voter in the state and made our elected officials less accountable.

Here’s an example: For the last decade (five elections), only one congressional seat has changed hands between the parties. So let’s do the math: 53 seats x 5 elections = 265 races. Divide 265 into 1 = 0.0037.

So, if you were an incumbent congressman, your chances of getting re-elected were better than 99.99 percent.
Reform was necessary to ensure the integrity of the democratic process.

Now we have the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. To quote the CCRC website, the commission is using the following criteria for redistricting: “Districts shall have reasonably equal population; the plan must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act; districts shall be geographically contiguous; the geographic integrity of any city, county, city and county, local neighborhood or local community of interest shall be respected; districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness; and to the extent practicable, each Senate district shall be comprised of two whole, complete, and adjacent Assembly districts.”

On June 10, the CCRC in four separate 14-0 votes released its first draft of new boundaries for Congress, State Board of Equalization, Senate and Assembly. 

That’s when everything hit the fan.

People who had not followed the process suddenly engaged and the commission has been swamped by both oral and written testimony in opposition.

Our Senate district started north at the top of the grapevine and ended in Malibu in the first draft map despite zero testimony advocating such a district. 

Numerous times during the process the commission instructed its consultants to craft a SCV to East Ventura County Senate district.

It should be noted that SCV has been with east Ventura County in a Senate seat in the 1980s, 1990s and last decade. However, this second round the consultants offered a “visualization” of a Senate district that included Antelope Valley, SCV and San Fernando Valley plan that include Pacoima, Lake View Terrace and other northeast SFV communities.

This was shocking, as no testimony in favor of such a plan exits. Even more breathtaking: Not a single commissioner commented when it was presented.

So, a number of us traveled to Sacramento the next day to advocate against the Senate visualization.

After our public testimony the commission spent about an hour reviewing L.A. County Senate districts and again instructed the consultants to draft a SCV to east Ventura County Senate district. Later that day, the commission, realizing it is nowhere close to having a plan completed, voted 13-1 to not release a second-draft map on July 14, and just release the next version on July 28 with the final vote culminating on August 15. 

Under the law, a supermajority of nine of the 14 members are needed for approval. This is made tougher by the requirement that they also obtain majorities of each subset: 3-of-5 Republicans, 3-of-5 Democrats, and 3-of-4 decline-to-state/other political party commissioners.

If I had to handicap it, I would say it is now 50/50 as to whether the commission approves a final plan. If the CRC does not approve a plan, redistricting goes to the courts to draw.

However, we must remain vigilant to ensure that our community is protected. You can track the process through www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov. You can review maps and make a comment by clicking the button, “Tell Us What You Think,” and then follow the prompts.

Louis L’Amour once said, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers.”

Scott Thomas Wilk is a member of the California Republican Party and elected member to the Republican Party of Los Angeles County.

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