July 19 is Selection Day for the CA Redistricting Commission

Today California’s Applicant Review Panel meets with the goal of identifying the 120 individuals the panel will invite for interviews. Follow the action on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RoseInstitute or watch the live meeting here. These 120 semi-finalists, consisting of 40 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and 40 voters not registered with either major party, will then be interviewed in the weeks to come. Half of them (60) will constitute the final Applicant Review Panel pool.

From the original 30,725 applications, 314 applicants remain. Of those, 72 received “Yes” votes from all three members of the Applicant Review Panel at its last meeting. It is expected, but not yet official, that all of those 72 will advance to interviews, leaving only 48 remaining spots in the final 120.

Among the 72 unanimous yes candidates, 18 are Republicans, 22 are Democrats, and 32 are “other” party members. As a result, the Panel now has to select 22 more Republicans, 18 more Democrats, and only 8 more “other” candidates. Among the 242 remaining applicants who did not receive three yes votes last meeting, there are 95 Republicans, 93 Democrats, and 54 “other” candidates. The odds are best for the remaining Republican candidates, as 23 percent of them will advance to the 120 interviewees. The remaining Democratic candidates face slightly longer odds, as only 19 percent of them will advance. The “other” party candidates face the longest odds as only 15 percent of them will advance.

The panel is also charged with ensuring the pool reflects the diversity of California, at least as well as possible within any relatively small pool of people. The 72 unanimous yes candidates include 37 men and 35 women. One big question is whether the Panel will aim for gender balance within each partisan pool, or just within the entire pool of 120. If they aim for balance within each pool the remaining Republican women have a good chance to advance: putting 20 Republican women into the interview stage requires approving 13 of the remaining 26 Republican women (those not in the pool of 72 unanimous yes candidates). Among the other partisan pools of applicants, 15 of the 32 “other” candidates in the unanimous yes pool are women, leaving openings for only 5 of the remaining 19 women (and for only 3 of the remaining 35 men in the “other” pool). Among the Democratic pool, 14 of the 22 in the unanimous yes pool are women and 8 are men, leaving spots for 6 of the remaining 41 Democratic women and 12 of the remaining 52 Democratic men. Again, we do not know if the Panel will aim for gender balance within each partisan subpool or only within the entire interview pool of 120.

Geographically, 11 people are in the unanimous yes pool from the “North Central Valley and Mountains” (9 of whom are from Sacramento); 25 are from “Southern Coastal” (including 17 from Los Angeles); 6 are from the “Central Coast”; and 4 are from the “Southern Central Valley and Mountain” region. Only 1 person is in this group of 72 is from the “Inland Empire” and only 1 is from the “North Coastal” region. Both the Inland Empire and North Coast representatives are registered Decline to State (the “other” partisan pool), so those 9 Republicans and 6 Democrats from the Inland Empire not in the unanimous yes group still have a high likelihood of making it into the interview pool. The odds are also relatively high for the 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats from the North Coastal region.

Los Angeles County, according to the Census Bureau’s 2006-2008 American Community Survey population estimates, constitutes 27 percent of California’s population. That translates into 32 people in a 120-person pool. Los Angeles currently has 17 people in the unanimous yes category, so about 15 of the remaining 52 applicants from Los Angeles with less than 3 “yes” votes may expect to advance. With relatively equal numbers between the parties in this group of 52 (21 Republican, 26 Democratic, but only 6 “other”), it is hard to predict who is likely to advance.

The 72 unanimous yes candidates include 46 white, 10 Latino, 9 Asian American, 3 African American, 2 Native American, 1 Pacific Islander, and one self-declared “Other” applicants. It has been noted by Common Cause and others that the pool of 314 is more diverse than the legislature. If the Panel is going to aim so high as to try to match the Latino, Asian and African American groups to their percentages among the entire population of California (according the Census numbers mentioned above), they would constitute 43, 15, and 7 members of the 120-person interview pool, respectively. If we are correct in the assumption that the 72 unanimous yes applicants are in the pool, then four additional African-Americans (among the remaining 24), six additional Asian Americans (among the remaining 18), 33 additional Hispanics (among the remaining 35), and only 5 additional Non-Hispanic White applicants (among the remaining 150) would make it into the interview pool. Keep in mind, however, that the demographics of California’s voters vary significantly from the demographics of its population, so even an interview pool that falls short of those goals could reasonably reflect the eligible population of redistricting commission members. And everything is relative: Common Cause and others have pointed out that the pool of 314 is already more diverse than the alternative redistricting authority: the legislature.

This analysis assumes that all of the final 314 candidates completed their Form 700 financial disclosure forms. There is a strong likelihood that some number did not, which will narrow the pool of candidates the Panel has available for consideration.

After the Panel selects the 120 for interviews and then whittles the pool down to its 60 finalists, applicants will still need to survive the “strikes” from each majority and minority legislative leader and then be chosen either in the initial random drawing or in the follow up commission selection stage.

The Applicant Review Panel’s responsibility to reflect the state’s diversity within the pool of 120 is challenging. It is inevitable that there will be those who complain of both real and imagined slights. The political atmosphere surrounding this November’s Propositions 20 and 27 further muddies the atmosphere. Once the final 14 Commission members are announced, the safeguards the authors wrote into Proposition 11 are likely to ensure a reasonably diverse and representative Commission, though no group of 14 (or of 120, be they the legislature or the interview pool) can ever fully reflect every aspect of California’s vibrant and varied people.

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