On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court unanimously struck down two Republican challenges to the redistricting plans put forth by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The two petitions, which dispute the validity of the state legislative and congressional maps, were brought by GOP activist Julie Vandermost and former GOP congressman George Radanovich respectively. The plaintiffs in each case argued that the Commission’s plans are not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and do not adhere to constitutional requirements set forth by Proposition 11 (2008) and Proposition 20 (2010).
All seven Supreme Court Justices, however, denied both petitions and also rejected the plaintiffs’ requests for an emergency stay on the maps, which would have stalled their implementation until after the upcoming 2012 election.
The plans, which the commission certified on August 15th, are expected to create more Democratic districts than the current lines do. The State Senate plan is generally considered likely to provide Democrats a two-thirds majority in that chamber, the threshold necessary to enact tax increases, thereby eliminating the need to garner Republican support. The congressional plan gives Democrats a chance to pick up at least two seats. Approval of the plans required support from nine of the fourteen committee members (including three Democrats, three Republicans, and three independents). The congressional plan was approved by twelve members, with two Republicans dissenting, while the State Senate plan was approved by thirteen, with only one Republican dissenting.
In elections in 2008 and 2010, California voters took the redistricting process out of the hands of the legislature and gave it to the independent Citizens Commission, comprised of five Republicans, five Democrats, and four independents. Ironically, the measures had strong GOP support, as Republicans thought removing the redistricting power from the legislature and governor would provide the opportunity to elect more Republicans, or at least protect them from the partisan gerrymander the legislature was expected to draw.
While this is not the last challenge the new maps face, it is an important step. Currently, the only other active challenge is a referendum campaign against the Senate maps. It is unclear, however, whether backers will be able to secure the necessary number of signatures.