California Appeals Court Upholds Election District Committee Law

(CN) – Los Angeles County will be required to appoint a committee to redraw its voting district lines after a battle with California over the implementation of 2016 legislation that pushed a new method of determining the electoral boundaries.

Senate Bill 958, penned by former Democratic state Senator Ricardo Lara and enacted in 2016, established an independent redistricting committee for Los Angeles County. Opponents of the bill, including Los Angeles County leaders who wish to retain control over district mapping, claim that the measure singles out the county and is unconstitutional.

The county sued the state but a trial court denied its petition seeking to declare the measure invalid and unconstitutional. 

A three-judge panel of the Second Appellate District agreed Tuesday with the lower court’s ruling, finding that “there is a reasonable basis for the state to single out Los Angeles based on the county’s unique redistricting history, demographics, and geography.”

Writing for the majority, Judge Carl H. Moor pointed out that districting practices in Los Angeles County had a troubled past, including a history of racial discrimination. 

“Los Angeles County has an acknowledged history of racial discrimination in the way its Board has drawn district boundaries in the past,” the 45-page lead opinion states. “Between 1959 and 1990, Los Angeles County’s redistricting efforts were marred by actions intended to ‘dilute the effect of the Hispanic vote in future elections and preserve incumbencies of the Anglo members of the Board of Supervisors.’”  

Presiding Justice Laurence Rubin joined the lead opinion, while Justice Lamar Baker concurred separately.

The county initially sued the state in 2017 after former Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. 

Before the implementation of SB 958, California counties did not have the authority to form independent redistricting commissions for boundaries.

SB 958 stipulates the creation of a 14-member commission at the end of each census. The members of the commission are chosen by county election officials. To qualify for the commission, applicants must fulfill a number of prerequisites including residency within the county and continual registration with the same political party, or unaffiliated, for the previous five years. Applicants must also have been voters in the last three statewide elections.

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