A state commission empowered with redrawing California senate and assembly district boundaries opened up to applications from everyday citizens Tuesday. Under Prop. 11, passed last year, power for redistricting shifts from the legislature to a 14-member commission that will ultimately be chosen by the state auditor.
A press conference about the application process, which is open to regular statewide voters who have been affiliated with a party for at least five years, was being held in Los Angeles Tuesday. "This is an exciting time in our state's history," stated California's auditor, Elaine M. Howle. "This is the first commission of its kind in the United States, and we're ready to take this next step. We've already established regulations and laid the foundation for creating the 14-member commission."
After applications close Feb. 12 the auditor's office will whittle the candidates down to 60. Major party leaders in each house can strike two names each out of three pools of applicants, which will each contain 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and 20 "other party" members. The leaders will get to strike 24 total names from the applications. (More on the process here). The auditor will then chose the final 14.
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The idea is to redraw district lines based on the latest U.S. Census information, and to do so free from the political gerrymandering of the legislature, which has, in the past, created some odd-shaped, incongruous districts in the name of keeping one or the other party dominant. The commission must get to work in early 2011 to shape the decade's districts for California.