Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Whither redistricting?

It’s been nearly three months since the state redistricting commission released its maps for 177 congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts.

They’re not quite final. A Republican-backed referendum to overturn state Senate maps is still pending, with signatures to qualify for next year’s ballot being submitted this week.

The state Supreme Court had summarily rejected a GOP legal challenge to the Senate maps. But were the referendum to gain enough signatures to qualify for next year’s ballot, the Supreme Court would be compelled to step back into the issue, deciding which Senate districts would be used for the 2012 elections pending the referendum’s outcome.

However, the court and the ballot are not the only venues for challenging what the commission wrought. Any election law changes that affect four California counties – Monterey, Merced, Yuba and Kings – are subject to review by the U.S. Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Why those four?

Mostly, it’s because all four had major military bases in the 1960s – and therefore large populations of voting-age residents who didn’t, however, vote in local elections. That, coupled with their significant Latino populations, made them arithmetically subject to the Voting Rights Act, which was written to block Southern states from denying voting rights to African Americans.

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