New California legislative maps finalized, may be challenged

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission voted 13-1 Monday to approve new legislative maps for the U.S. Congress, state Senate, state Assembly and Board of Equalization districts. The commission did not make any changes to the final draft of the outlines released last month, which separate Malibu from cities with shared interests.

In the state Senate, Malibu is separated from Santa Monica, with which it shares a school district. In the state Assembly, Malibu is no longer grouped together with Calabasas, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village. The cities, along with Agoura Hills, comprise the local Council of Governments (COG), which work together on environmental issues related to the Santa Monica Mountains watershed. They also share the transportation corridor formed by the 101 and 405 freeways, Pacific Coast Highway and the canyon roads that connect them.

Malibu city officials have said being cut off from the COG cities could make it more difficult to make the city’s voice heard in Sacramento.

The redistricting commission is a 14-member board of five Republicans, five Democrats and four affiliated with neither party. It was created after voters passed the Voters First Act in 2008, and charged with drawing the new legislative districts without bias.  

Michael Ward, a Republican from Anaheim, was the one redistricting commissioner to vote against all of the maps. Ward has charged that the maps were created based on political motives and that the commission “broke the law” by ignoring the Voting Rights Act.  

“This commission became the citizens’ smoke-filled room, where average citizen commissioners engaged in dinner-table deals and partisan gerrymandering — the very problems that this commission was supposed to prevent,” Ward told the Los Angeles Times.

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Commission Chairman Vincent Barabba, a Republican from Santa Cruz County, said there was “no basis” to Ward’s accusation.

“The sense I get is that Commissioner Ward attended different meetings than I did,” Barabba said.

The new maps are likely to be challenged both through a special ballot and in court. California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told the Los Angeles times the party is considering a ballot challenge through a referendum drive to throw out the maps.  He said the state Senate and U.S. congressional maps hurt Republicans.

Latino groups are also considering challenging the maps in court. Thomas A. Saenz, the president and legal counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the state Senate and U.S. congressional maps in particular harm the interests of Latinos by diluting their voting blocs. Saenz told the Los Angeles Times, “We are looking at compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act,” and the organization may sue. Saenz may be familiar to Malibu residents as the then-president of the Los Angeles Board of Education, which denied a petition to turn Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School into a charter school earlier this year.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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