The Citizens Redistricting Commission approved the new legislative district maps for California on Monday. No changes were made to the maps that were tentatively approved last month. A lawsuit and/or ballot referendum could be used to challenge the maps.
The commission approved the state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization maps by a vote of 13-1. The lone opponent was Anaheim chiropractor Michael Ward, a Republican. Fellow Republican Jodie Filkins Webber, an attorney from Riverside County, joined Ward as the only other person to oppose the map for the U.S. House of Representatives districts.
The commission was created after voters in 2008 passed Proposition 11, the Voters First Act. It includes five Democrats, five Republicans and four members who decline to state a party preference. The members are of various ethnic backgrounds and live in various parts of California. They held a number of public hearings throughout the state and received thousands of written comments. Previously, districts had been created by legislators, and what they came up with was alleged to be a gerrymandered mess, designed to make sure incumbents could be re-elected.
"The commission followed the Constitution and we believe balanced the interests of all Californians in creating districts we believe are reasoned and make good sense," said Commission Chair Vincent P. Barabba, a Republican businessman from Santa Cruz County, at a press conference following Monday's vote.
Ward sang a different tune. He said the maps were "fundamentally flawed as the result of a tainted political process" and that the commission "broke the law" by ignoring the federal Voting Rights Act and making decisions "based on political motives."
"This commission became the citizens smoke-filled room, where average citizen commissioners engaged in dinner table deals and partisan gerrymandering, the very problems that this commission was supposed to prevent," Ward said.
When asked by a member of the press what he meant by "dinner table deals," Ward said his statement "stands on its own."
Ward said the 33rd congressional district, a Democratic Party-dominated zone that stretches along the coast from Malibu to Rancho Palos Verdes while poking out to the landside in parts to capture Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Beverly Hills, was the "ribbon of shame district." He cited several other districts as having been creatively designed for political purposes.
Ward said he would not take part in any lawsuit or ballot referendum to challenge the maps. A California Republican Party spokesman told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that the party would likely not file a suit and that it would probably make a decision later this week on whether to pursue a ballot referendum.
Following Ward's comments, Barabba said, "The sense I get is that Commissioner Ward attended different meetings than I did or at least saw them differently."