The first draft of new voting-district maps that will change legislative boundaries was released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission on Friday, June 10.
The new maps redraw the boundaries of California's congressional, state Senate, state Assembly, and state Board of Equalization districts to reflect the new census population data.
The citizens' commission, which was mandated by voters in 2008 through Proposition 11 (the Voters First Act) was created to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians.
The new districts were created with the idea of being more representative of communities.
"In the past, district lines were drawn behind closed doors, producing districts that divided communities -- sometimes running hundreds of miles in indescribable shapes -- with their only purpose being the protection of incumbents. The commission prepared these draft maps without regard to current districts, incumbents, candidates or political parties," commissioners said in a statement.
The commission held 23 hearings with residents throughout the state, receiving testimony from 1,533 Californians. Thousands more submitted testimony online, by fax and in the mail, commissioners said.
Residents described the characteristics of their communities and what makes them distinct.
"They shared their thoughts on what other communities they would like included in their districts and which communities should not be included.
"These preliminary maps restore integrity to California's Constitutional mandate to redistrict to ensure fair representation. Where possible, the commission worked to keep communities whole to maximize their voices under these proposed districts," the commission said.
The maps, along with the previous district boundaries, can be viewed at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.
Commissioners said the new districts have three advantages over existing legislative lines:
* Districts are drawn without regard to political incumbents and partisan considerations.
* Districts reflect geographic and "common sense" boundaries.
* The districts balance the needs of different communities of interest across California.
State Sen. Joe Simitian was not able to return a phone call requesting comment on the redistricting. He does not plan to issue a statement, an aide said.
The League of Women Voters of California praised the new maps in a press release Thursday prior to their public release.
"Californians have engaged enthusiastically on the process of redrawing the lines. Unlike redistricting in the past, this process has been open and transparent –- a true citizen-driven process," league President Janis Hirohama said.
In contrast to previous redistricting, the Citizens Commission is releasing draft maps long before its final Aug. 15 deadline, giving the public time to collaborate with the commission to develop final maps.
Hirohama said the maps are the first round and will be refined after public comment. She encouraged the public to take an active role.
"Keep watching as the commission takes more input and revises the maps. This is a historic moment. We need to insure that the public is heard," she said.
Comments can be submitted online at firstname.lastname@example.org, by mail to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, 901 P St., Suite 154-A, Sacramento, CA 95814 or by fax at 916-651-5711.
The commission will be holding 11 public-input hearings in June on the draft maps. The hearing schedule and the draft maps can be found at the commission's website at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.
A meeting will be held June 25 from 2 to 5 p.m. at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose.