Friday, November 11, 2011

Orange County Register: Senate redistricting referendum effort advances

Effort to repeal new Senate districts advances

November 10th, 2011, 11:44 am ·  posted by Martin Wisckol, Politics reporter

The Orange County Register

A Republican effort to repeal the newly drawn state Senate districts by means of a ballot referendum has begun submitting the required petitions, and expects to have sufficient signatures turned in by Sunday to qualify the measure for the ballot.

The new districts give Democrats a good chance to gain a two-thirds majority of the Senate, which would mean they could raise taxes without a single Republican vote. Republicans contend the districts have been gerrymandered.

Helping lead the effort is Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, although the concern is not with Orange County lines but those elsewhere in the state. The lines were drawn by the independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The citizens commission was approved by voters to take the task out of the hands of the state Legislature and diminish the political dealmaking involved with the decennial redistricting. The commission, by law, is made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and four members from neither party. At least three GOP and three Democratic votes are required to approve the districts. The Senate districts were approved 13-1.

If there are enough signatures to qualify the referendum, it could trigger a stay and the Senate lines might not be used for candidates for the June primaries, according to the Associated Press. “The state Supreme Court will decide whether to use the old maps, the new maps or appoint a panel of retired judges to draw districts” for the 2012 elections, according to the Associated Press.

504,760 valid signatures are needed by Nov. 13. Those signatures would then be verified by elections officials.

Republicans typically win 42 percent to 44 percent of all votes statewide, according to referendum consultant Dave Gilliard. Proportionally, that would give them 16 seats in the state Senate, but the new lines will probably result in Republicans getting just 11 or 12 seats, he said. While Democrats have gained nearly 500,000 registered voters since 2001 and Republicans have lost more than 100,000 registered voters over the past decade, that the new districts minimize GOP clout by a much larger measure, he said.

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