By JOHN HRABE
A member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission believes that the commission broke the law, failed to uphold an open and transparent decision-making process and used political motives in drawing California’s new state and federal legislative districts, according to an exclusive, in-depth interview with CalWatchDog.com.
“This commission simply traded the partisan, backroom gerrymandering by the Legislature for partisan, backroom gerrymandering by average citizens,” Commissioner Mike Ward said in an interview with CalWatchDog.com on Sunday night. “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, who was the lone member of the commission to oppose all of the commission’s proposed maps at its July 29 meeting, will outline his opposition in a detailed statement to be delivered at the commission’s press conference later today. An advance copy of the commissioner’s remarks was obtained exclusively by CalWatchDog.com and is reprinted below.
“Commission broke the law”
In the remarks, Ward stated bluntly, “This commission broke the law,” by failing to apply the Voting Rights Act to congressional districts in Los Angeles County. The Voting Rights Act, which is one of the commission’s mandated criteria for drawing district lines, requires that all possible “majority-minority” districts be drawn. In Los Angeles, African-Americans were split across three congressional districts instead of being drawn into one or two majority-minority districts.
Ward also attacked the commission for adopting the same partisan gerrymandering techniques of the state Legislature.
“Instead of fixing the redistricting process that politicians had so corrupted, we ended up doing the same thing as the politicians,” Ward said.
As evidence of Ward’s claim, he referred to the infamous “ribbon of shame district” that drew public outcry and was routinely cited by proponents as the need for creating an independent redistricting panel.
“Ten years ago, there was a ribbon of shame district, and we have another one. This time, the ribbon of shame district is a Los Angeles-based coastal congressional district held together by a tiny strip of land near LAX,” Ward explaind in his statement. “At the Senate level, there’s the Orange County hook, reaching out from Cal Poly Pomona and grabbing Cypress, Stanton and La Palma.”