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State institutes changes to congressional district boundaries

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Written by: Wayland Fong

After the California congressional boundaries were amended, California Citizens Redistricting Commision (CCRC) made subtle changes to adjust to the new boundaries. The new boundaries were made to reflect the newly collected census data.

The citizens’ commission, which was mandated by voters in 2008 through Proposition 11 (the Voters’ First Act) with the goal of better representing communities drew all of California’s district borders. “In the past, district lines were drawn behind closed doors, producing districts that divided communities—sometimes running hundreds of miles in indescribable shapes—with their only purpose being the protection of incumbents,” commissioners said in a statement on June 10, 2011. “The commission prepared these draft maps without regard to current districts, incumbents, candidates or political parties.” In this way, the commission made sure that politicians could not change boundaries to affect voter turnout or sway the vote in any way.

Commissioners indicated that the new districts have three advantages over existing legislative lines. First, districts were drawn without regard to political incumbents and partisan considerations. Second districts instead reflect geographic boundaries. Lastly, the new districts balance the needs of different communities across California. “Where possible, the commission worked to keep communities whole to maximize their voices under these proposed districts,” the commission said.

CCRC Commissioner Stan Forbes believes that this boundary change will increase the level of voter turnout. “Because this is a presidential election it is hard to say,” he wrote in an email. “However, it should increase turnout since voters will know the districts were not designed to protect incumbents and so the district is likely to be more competitive and so their vote will matter.”

According to Forbes, elected officials will also be affected by this change. “Competitive office holders will be more responsive because they know voters will have a real choice in the future whereas in the past a legislator could ignore the voters for the most part and do what they want,” Forbes wrote. Forbes also believes that this will change decisions being made in the legislatures. “I would expect legislation to be more moderate since to win a candidate will now have to appeal to decline to state or members of the other party,” he wrote.

U.S. Government teacher John Hebert believes that the new boundaries will not strongly impact the community. “Voter turnout is always higher for a presidential election, so I don’t think you’ll see any change,” he wrote in an email. “The old and the new district are both quite Democratic (about 2 to 1 Democrats to Republicans), so little effect will be seen.” Hebert believes a change in legislation would be highly unlikely. “Anna Eshoo was the Representative before and will be again most likely,” he wrote. “Republicans will maintain control of the House or Representatives.”

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State institutes changes to congressional district boundaries