The problem with California's new redistricting process is that disputed new boundaries remain up in the air, according to Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson.
"Anyone who says they know what's going on, doesn't know," Levinson told the Santa Monica Democratic Club on Wednesdsay.
Levinson met with club members to talk about the redistricting process and her own role in the drafting of Proposition 11. But with multiple challenges being brought against the new assembly and senate districts, Levinson's read of the situation wasn't superficial.
At this point, it's "really hard to have anything but a cloudy crystal ball," said the club's program director Genise Schnitman, who said Levinson was honest about what remains murky.
Passed by California voters in 2008, Proposition 11 created a 14-member independent board of citizens to rejigger district lines for state and national legislative offices based on figures from the 2010 census. They drew new district maps—which , including Santa Monica—were released last summer.
The maps were promptly challenged by different Republican groups who feared they would lose power given the way new district lines favored the growing number of Hispanics and Asians, who typically vote Democratic.
The California Supreme Court refused to hear the first challenge, so Republicans turned to the Federal Supreme Court, challenging the congressional district maps on the basis of the Voting Rights Act. But the Federal Court has not decided whether it will act. Additionally, other Republicans are challenging the State Senate district maps using the iniatitve process.
Levinson said that enough signatures have been gathered to put a measure on the June ballot. The Secretary of State has until Feb. 23 to determine whether all of the signatures are valid.
That puts elections for state and national offices, the primaries for which are June, in question, Levinson said, because it's not yet known which district maps will be used to determine who runs where.
Levinson explained that in 2001 both Republican and Democratic lawmakers made a point of keeping the new districts very safe for themselves, thus making it harder to change leadership.
California voters responded by passing Proposition 11. From the citizens panel's perspective, they did a good job, Levinson said, pointing out that almost no districts changed hands from one party to another.
Levinson, who worked on the proposition, said that she was very surprised to see that thousands of citizens had applied for the panel.
"It was amazing that so many people wanted to talk about drawing legislative lines," Levinson said.
It was first thought that the new maps would favor Republicans over Democrats because of the population growth in the eastern part of the state. However, when it turned out that the population growth was principally among Hispanics and Asians, who typically vote Democratic, Republicans began to challenge the new maps.
Unfortunately, no one knows at this point what will happen, Levinson said.