U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in Washington, where justices on Monday ruled that independent citizens’ commissions were allowed to draw electoral district lines. California’s districts are set up by its citizens’ commission. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

By Cathleen Decker
June 29, 2015

  • Supreme Court redistricting decision benefits Republicans in California, the opposite of its impact elsewhere

Like so many political events, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday that upheld the right of independent citizen commissions to draw district lines inspired a different reaction in California than elsewhere in the nation.

Here, it was a victory for Republicans, spared the alternative of having the strongly Democratic Legislature draw lines that would have carved into the GOP’s already paltry number of elected officials. Elsewhere, it was a defeat for Republicans, who control legislatures in places like Arizona, where the case originated, and wanted the restoration of the legislature’s power to draw lines beneficial to their party.

“In Arizona, the Republicans are upset today, but in California the Democrats might be a little less happy than they might have been otherwise,” said Jessica A. Levinson, clinical professor of law at Loyola Law School, who specializes in election law. “Redistricting can sometimes make for strange bedfellows.”

The partisan benefits were not terribly clear in the public reactions of elected officials, many of whom skipped over the political fallout to emphasize their support for the Mom-and-apple-pie notion of citizen involvement, enshrined by two ballot measures.

“Today’s decision by the nation’s highest court supporting redistricting commissions is a victory for California’s open and publicly accessible redistricting process,” state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles and Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins of San Diego, both Democrats, said in a statement. “We hope other states will follow suit now that the court has removed any question about its constitutionality.”

“California voters overwhelmingly approved Propositions 11 and 20 to take the redistricting process out of the hands of elected officials and give it to an independent body,” Senate GOP leader Bob Huff of San Dimas said in his statement. “The court’s decision will ensure that Californians will continue to have an open and fair redistricting process.”

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