By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — California’s independent redistricting panel stamped unanimous final approval of new legislative districts on Monday, and early analysis indicates the new boundaries will bolster a Democratic congressional stronghold in the state and amplify challenges for Republican incumbents.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission, composed of five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents, was tasked with drawing new boundaries for state Senate and Assembly districts and new congressional boundaries for the next decade based on 2020 Census data. This is the second time an independent commission took on this task in California. The first time was in 2010.
The process spanned many weeks, with commissioners fielding public comment late into the night in several marathon meetings. The resulting maps, which include new lines for the state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization and new congressional boundaries, were approved in a 14-0 vote on Monday.
Due to population loss over the last decade, California forfeited a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, bringing the total number of seats down to 52. According to Politico, the new congressional map accounts for this loss by consolidating two districts into one in southern Los Angeles County. The incumbents who held those seats, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Alan Lowenthal, both Democrats, announced they would not be running for re-election.
Early analysis from the Cook Political Report indicates that the maps will make elections more difficult for some of the state’s incumbent Republicans, while Democrats will likely benefit from the new boundaries.
“In a huge win for Dems, all 42 of their incumbents get double-digit Biden seats (two are merged due to CA’s seat loss),” Dave Wasserman, an editor of the nonpartisan Cook Report, tweeted Monday. “Meanwhile, five of CA’s 11 GOP incumbents get more vulnerable.
“The CA map is both less competitive and better for Dems than initial drafts (and my priors heading into the process).”
Per the California Constitution, the commission was required under the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority groups have a voice in elections. The commission was also required to ensure the division of cities, neighborhoods and communities of interest was minimized as much as possible.
According to Mr. Wasserman, the new map has 18 seats with 50% or more Latino voting-age populations, up from the previous map with 13 seats.
Ahead of Monday’s vote, Commissioner Pedro Toledo praised the panel for its dedication to the “advancement of representative democracy” and creating maps that ensure “all people have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
“Accomplishing this was only possible by leaving our own interests and wants at the door,” Mr. Toledo said. “And by listening to the voices of Californians, and working together to meet those needs in a collaborative and fair manner that prioritizes the meaningful involvement and engagement of Californians.”
The maps must now be up for public review for the next three days. Then each will be sent to be certified by the secretary of state by the Dec. 27 deadline. The new maps will take effect during the June primaries in 2022.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.