Voting rights advocates are thrilled the California Supreme Court granted an extension to deadlines for the submission of new district maps today, due to 2020 Census delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court’s move preserves the state’s independent redistricting process, which will create district maps that shape political representation for the next decade in California’s congressional delegation, State Senate, and State Assembly.
Last month California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of California, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger submitted an amicus letter in support of the California Legislature’s petition to the Court to postpone redistricting deadlines.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is an independent, 14-member, citizen-run body charged with drawing districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, and Board of Equalization using census population data after each decennial census. California voters created the Citizens Redistricting Commission, with the goal of ensuring fair and nonpartisan redistricting in the state, via Proposition 11 in 2008. California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of California, and Gov. Schwarzenegger supported Proposition 11.
The Court has postponed the deadline for adoption of the next maps by four months, matching the Census Bureau’s four-month delay in releasing the data needed for the districting process. This preserves the critical period that the Citizens Redistricting Commission has to gather public input from communities around the state and carefully draw district lines.
Justice Leondra Kruger wrote the July 17, 2020 opinion for the California Supreme Court:
“By granting this limited remedy, we... preserve the public’s right to provide input on electoral district maps before those maps are finalized. We consider it clear that the enactors would have preferred this deadline be adjusted — and the opportunity for public comment on the preliminary maps preserved — to effectively eliminating the public comment process because of extraordinary circumstances that make compliance with the statutory deadline impossible”.
Statement of Carol Moon Goldberg, President of League of Women Voters of CA:
The League of Women Voters of California has been a longtime advocate for redistricting reform, and was a key partner in creating the citizen-led redistricting process in California. We applaud the common sense solution to this unprecedented set of circumstances and look forward to working with the new Commission to ensure the best possible redistricting process for California."
California is the first state to extend redistricting deadlines due to the Census Bureau delay. The delayed delivery of population data is likely to impact 17 states with mandates under state law to complete redistricting either before July 31, too soon to realistically complete redistricting, or by the end of the state’s first post-census legislative session.
Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP are representing the redistricting advocates pro bono.
Statement of Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director, California Common Cause:
“California Common Cause was instrumental in creating the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a people-centered redistricting process that puts a premium on transparency and public input. We applaud the California Supreme Court’s decision to postpone redistricting deadlines due to the census delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also applaud the State Legislature for seeking this relief from the Court. Now there can be full public participation by the people of California.”
Read the California Supreme Court opinion here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S262530.PDF