Diverse Applicant Pool Critical to Success of Redistricting Commission

by Titi Liu on February 4, 2010

In 2008, voters passed Proposition 11 removing the redistricting authority from the State Legislature and giving a 14-person citizen’s committee the charge of drawing California’s legislative boundaries. Reshaping and impacting the state’s political future while giving meaningful voice to California’s diverse communities will require a commission that reflects the state’s population.

This is proving to be a tough challenge as the Feb 12th deadline for selecting commission members approaches. As of February 1st, less than 30 percent of the applicants are people of color, more than 69 percent of the applicants are men, and over 60 percent of the applicants are over the age of 55.

Although Prop 11 laid out a selection process designed to promote openness and transparency, it failed to create any mechanism to ensure diversity within the Commission. In fact, although Prop 11 lists “appreciation of diversity” as a main qualification for commissioners, there is no guarantee of diversity –be it gender, racial or ethnic, socio-economic status, geographical, sexual orientation, age, or differently abled– either of the commissioners individually or of the commission as a whole.

The Commission faces two major challenges before it can even attempt to draw district lines in 2011. The first 8 commissioners will choose the final 6 commissioners while maintaining “an eye towards balancing diversity”. Without a diverse applicant pool for the first 8 commissioners to draw from, the commission will likely face criticism from both side of the political spectrum on the merits of their decision. The commission will also have to operate within a political climate where public trust is at the utmost importance.

Prop 11 is not perfect, but this is the landscape we face as California citizens and voters. A diverse applicant pool and a diverse commission are key to the success of the redistricting process. The applicant pool will naturally influence the final composition of the commission, and a diverse applicant pool and commission must be the first step towards rebuilding public trust in the process of redistricting.

Less than two weeks remain for the application period of the commission. From now till February 12, let’s all do our part in recruiting potential applicants because the Redistricitng Commission must represent the diverse communities of California. Our state’s political future depends on it. Visit www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov to learn more.

Mina Titi Liu is the Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, the nation’s oldest organization advocating for the civil and legal rights of Asians and Pacific Islanders. The mission of the Asian Law Caucus is to promote, advance and represent the legal and civil rights of Asian and Pacific Islander communities, with a focus directed toward addressing the eeds of low-income, immigrant and underserved individuals.

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