November 14, 2011, 5:12 pm
Posted by John Myers

The sole challenge to the work of California’s citizen redistricting panel appears to have crossed a significant milestone over the weekend, but still faces some tough odds to actually blocking the use of the panel’s work in 2012.

Starting last Thursday and concluding on Sunday, the political team that pushed the referendum against the state Senate districts drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission turned in 710,924 signatures to elections officials in 57 California counties — enough, they believe, to place the measure on the November 2012 ballot.

“Hundreds of people worked tirelessly for almost three months to collect these signatures, overcoming great odds and many skeptics,” said a written statement from state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel), one of the leading donors to the effort. Democrats released a statement of their own last week panning the effort.

But the referendum will likely need the full amount of time allowed by law for the petition signatures to be verified… a delay that could have serious implications for any further legal challenge to block the use of the citizen commission’s Senate map.

And herein lies the point that many politicos were making from the get-go: it takes a lot of money to gather signatures in a hurry. 710,924 signatures and $2.5 million sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t enough to fast-track the referendum’s qualification.

Campaign manager Dave Gilliard said in an email that he expects elections officials will have to use what’s known as the “full count” to verify that the redistricting referendum qualified.

But the ideal route for any measure (either an initiative or a referendum) is qualification after only a “random sample” of signatures. As the Secretary of State’s website describes the process:

If the number of valid signatures [tabulated through the random sampling] is greater than 110% of the required number of signatures, the initiative measure is considered qualified without further verification.

With the minimum valid signatures for a referendum being 504,760, the Senate redistricting referendum would need a projected 555,236 valid signatures (110% of the number required) to quickly qualify.

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