From the Publisher – Redistricting Facts & Fear

I just read a column written by Samuel Walton and Michelle Romero, dated February 15, 2011 and published in an independent, Southern California newspaper, the Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley Journal, regarding this year’s redistricting process and felt it necessary to respond to the vitriolic diatribe.

The commentary contained some seriously egregious, fallacious allegations, full of fear tactics. For example, one statement made is: “State legislatures in many states have used redistricting to minimize and/or deny racial and ethnic minorities their right to representation. They do this by drawing lines through a given community to disable that group’s collective voting power, or by packing them into as few districts as possible to ensure their voice is small in Sacramento and Washington. In these cases, we end up not much better off than when we didn’t have the right to vote at all.”

While that may have happened in the past in other states, and perhaps might still, unfortunately be happening this year, can the writers cite when the last time it was done in California?

The writers then stated “In California, Propositions 11 and 20 recognized the abuses by the California Legislature and reassigned the responsibility for legislative and congressional redistricting to an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”

That was not the reason those propositions were written. It was because of the gaming by the Democrat majority over the Republican minority and all other minor parties in this state, to gerrymander districts to pack as many Republicans into as few districts as possible to ensure their voice is small in Sacramento and Washington.

For example, the 1981 redistricting process, Bruce Cain, the U.C. Berkeley professor and co-owner of Q2, the contractor that the Commission hired this year, (although he was specifically required to be separated from his partner, Karin MacDonald, and prevented from being involved in their company’s work during the process), was brought in by the Democrat leadership to draw lines to minimize the number of Republicans in the State Legislature.

It was only in 1991 that we had a fair redistricting, in the time I’ve been voting. That was because Governor Wilson, whether you like him or not, vetoed the Democrats’ gerrymandered redistricting plan and the responsibility to redraw the new district lines was handed off to three retired judges know as “the Three Masters”.

But, then the Democrats in the legislature drew some seriously gerrymandered districts again, in 2001 and Governor Grey Davis signed it into law. Just look at the current map of State Assembly, State Senate and Congressional districts. They’re ridiculous in their shapes, with one that looks like a seahorse and others like a Rorschach test.

Prop’s 11 and 20 are all about letting the people choose their representatives, not the other way around and the Commission agrees. They all nodded their heads in agreement when I made that statement at their hearing on February 26 in Sacramento. Yes, the criteria in Prop 11 contains the criteria that the new districts “Comply with Federal Voting Rights Act” , which ranks second in order, that’s only one of six criteria, which also includes (in rank order): 1. Equal Population, 3. District Contiguity, 4. Keep cities, communities and neighborhoods intact as much as possible, 5. Compactness, 6. Nesting (applies to State Assembly inside Senate Districts).

The column then made an even more outlandish, fear-based statement: “Think about what might happen to our communities if we were to be silenced again. If low and moderate income voters were silenced, politicians could stop funding public education, affordable housing, or social services altogether.”

In California? Does anyone seriously believe that?

Then the icing on the cake was the writers’ statement: “Or imagine what could happen to Latinos if their communities were divided and their votes no longer counted. We could have an Arizona-style ‘papers please’ law in a heartbeat, turning anyone who looks ‘foreign’ into second-class citizens. Or perhaps politicians’ pandering to public fear would have them all put into concentration camps. That may sound far-fetched, but it actually happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.”

Like they say during the “Weekend Update” segment of Saturday Night Live – Really? I mean really? In California, where no racial group has a majority?

As a member of my local NAACP branch, I recognize there are still challenges facing both the black community and other racial minorities, today that need watchdogs and vigilance. But what was written in that column is not the kind of baseless argument that’s needed to rally those of us concerned about fair representation, and equal rights and opportunity. Providing people with the facts, not false fear, is the way to responsibly get people involved.

So, be involved in the redistricting process, this year, to ensure the number one voting principle of our democratic republic is respected, and that is “one person, one vote” which is why equal population is the top criteria in the process. But, let’s also ensure the VRA is respected as well as the rest of the criteria from the propositions that we the people passed.

For more information, please read the RedistrictingCA Pocket Guide which can be downloaded from their site at It’s published by an Alliance of non-profit organizations funded by The James Irvine Foundation to ensure the 2011 redistricting is fair and inclusive. The 12 organizations are: Asian Pacific American Legal Center, California Common Cause, California NAACP, Center for Governmental Studies, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, League of Women Voters of California, Los Angeles Urban League, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, Rose Institute of State and Local Government, Statewide Database at Berkeley, and the Greenlining Institute.

To read the entire column, click here.

For more information on the state redistricting process visit

Allen Payton, Publisher

Chairman, Contra Costa Citizens Redistricting Task Force

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