(IntegrityPress.org) – Governor Gavin Newsom of California has vetoed legislation that would have mandated numerous cities, counties, and educational districts within the state to employ independent commissions for the purpose of designing voting districts. This decision has dealt a setback to advocates of “redistricting reform.”
Last year, California’s local redistricting methods were thrust into the spotlight after leaking a private conversation involving several Los Angeles City Council members. The officials, all Democrats of Latino descent, used crude and racist language as they devised strategies to strengthen their political influence at the expense of Black voters.
A 2016 state law in California permitted counties and cities to establish redistricting commissions voluntarily, but few did. While some cities, like Austin, Texas, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, have adopted independent redistricting commissions, such commissions remain relatively uncommon in local governments.
Even though some specific state laws have mandated redistricting commissions for Los Angeles County, San Diego County, and a few other counties, numerous local governments, including the city of Los Angeles, still retain control over their district mapping. Earlier this year, an academic expert panel recommended that independent commissions composed of city residents oversee future redistricting for the Los Angeles City Council and school board.
Governor Newsom vetoed two bills on Saturday that aimed to transfer the authority for redistricting from elected officials in Los Angeles and many other jurisdictions to independent commissions comprised of local residents.
Had Newsom approved the measure, California could have been the first state to mandate the utilization of redistricting commissions for larger local jurisdictions. According to Dan Vicuna, the national director of redistricting and representation for Common Cause, this was a significant missed opportunity.
Jonathan Mehta Stein, the executive director of the voting rights organization California Common Cause, also expressed his disappointment. He further noted the missed opportunity for California to set an example by eradicating gerrymandering.
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