James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/22/2010 05:42:06 PM PST

Most Californians live in the Southern half of the state. Fewer than half of Californians are white. Almost exactly half are women.

But those facts aren’t represented by the people who have applied to the state’s 2011 redistricting commission. Most applicants are white men and a disproportionate number live near the state capital.

That’s spurred lawmakers, interest groups and community organizations to encourage their members and constituents to apply.

Among the most under-represented groups are Latinos, Asians and women. The Inland Empire and San Bernardino County are also short on applicants.

“All our California communities deserve elected officials that are truly representative of them,” said Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino. “Census information shows that California’s population is over 37 percent Latino, 12 percent Asian, and 7 percent African American. It is important that the Redistricting Commission is representative of these figures.”

In 2008, California voters passed a ballot measure that calls for the creation of a redistricting commission – a diverse group of 14 Californians who will redraw the state’s legislative districts. That process, which could dramatically change the face of California politics, happens just once every 10 years.

Of the 5,365 qualified applicants reported by the state auditor’s office this week, only 2.5 percent are from San Bernardino County, though the county represents 5.4 percent of California’s total population.

While San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire are under-represented, the Sacramento area is over-represented. Sacramento County represents 3.7 percent of the state’s population, but 19.5 percent of applicants to the commission.

“I think it’s important that all of the state’s different areas are represented and that it’s balanced,” said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills. “There are a lot of differences throughout the state.”

More than just geographical divides, though, the commission applicants also fall far short of representing women and most ethnic groups.

The most under-represented group among applicants is Latinos, who make up more than one third of the state’s population, but less than one tenth of applicants.

The redistrict initiative approved by voters calls for a commission that is “reasonably representative of the state’s diversity,” but it’s not clear how that diversity will be defined or achieved.

Gil Navarro, a San Bernardino County school board member, said it will be vital for the commission to reflect the state’s ethnic diversity.

“We want to make sure the redistricting is not done the way it was set up years ago in the South, where blacks did not have the opportunity to have a black legislator,” Navarro said. “We have to really ensure there’s equity in the commission. And the best way to do that is to get the commission to reflect the demographics.”

Asians, who make up 12.1 percent of Californians, comprise just 3.9 percent of commission applicants. Women, too, are relatively sparse – they make up 50 percent of the state’s population but only 27.9 percent of applicants.

Those numbers have spurred the League of Women Voters of California, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and other groups to start an outreach effort aimed at getting more women and Californians of color to apply.

“A woman who has had 25 or 30 years experience with the PTA in San Bernardino has dealt with a vast cross-section of communities and would really understand the region,” said Chris Carson, a volunteer with the League of Women Voters.

Black Californians, who make up 6 percent of the state and 5.5 percent of applicants, are close to being fully represented in the applicant pool. But that hasn’t stopped groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from encouraging more blacks to apply.

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