A quick, and probably wildly inaccurate, summary of the decision.
by Brian Leubitz
I read the decision very quickly (you can find it over the flip), so I likely missed many of the finer points. Nonetheless, I figured I wanted to get this up quickly, so, my apologies for any errors. At any rate, today the Court decided a few issues:
1) They have authority to intervene and provide a new map if a Redistricting map is challenged.
2) The Commission map is the best map to use in the interim, as it does the best job of adhering to the goals set forth in the redistricting initiative, even if the referendum gets on the ballot.
The discussion at the hearing was sort of meandering, but touched on all of these issues. Starting with the Commission's map, the entire Court agreed that it was the best map to use both for June and November. Interestingly, there were two semi-conflicting decisions from Supreme Court precedence to choose from. Legislature v. Reinecke held that the 1972 maps, which were vetoed by Gov. Reagan, could not be used. Rather, the previous maps based on 1960 census data should be used. The maps proposed by the 1972 Legislature had only been presented in a "truncated" Legislative process.
On the other hand, Assembly v Deukmejian held that the maps signed into law Gov. Jerry Brown and put to a referendum by the Republicans should go ahead in 1982. The Court reasoned that
Although the Constitution of our state grants the power to initiate a referendum to 5 percent of the voters, it does not require that the effect of that referendum be articulated in a manner that does such serious injury to conflicting and equally compelling constitutional mandates.
In other words, there were competing Constitutional interests. The right to a referendum, which is provided in the state Constitution, and the principle of "One person, One vote." (OPOV) Using the old maps would have meant that districts would be out of balance. In 1972, the Court held that the never really approved, because they were vetoed, maps could not be imposed, the principle of OPOV had to take a back seat because it would be far more destructive to impose the fake maps than it would be to just accept disproportionate districts for two more years. At the same time, because the 1972 district netted 2 Congressional seats, the Court let those be imposed on an interim basis. So, apparently they weren't so odious or destructive.
On the other hand, the legitimately passed 1982 maps were put in place, for reasons both of pragmatism and of principle. The maps had been duly passed by the Legislature. While the right of referendum was an important Constitutional right, it was not so important as to throw the system into chaos. This was a 4-3 decision, with the dissenters basically calling the decision a wholly political one.
And with that in mind, the Court ultimately decided that the Assembly v Deukmejian was more applicable in this instance. The referendum situation ultimately bearing more similarity to the newer case than the older.
The court considered several maps in the case the referendum is put on the ballot:
- The 2002 maps. They would have resulted in districts that varied by nearly 40% from largest to smallest. The court ultimately dismissed this as varying too far from the OPOV and not complying with the standards set in the 2008 redistricting initiative.
- "Nesting ADs" - The Republicans also suggested just nesting assembly districts, which I suppose might present them with somewhat better chances to get to 1/3 representation. However, these districts did not in any meaningful way meet the listed requirements of the 2008 initiative (now Article XXI) and would "defer" too many voters from their new districts for too long.
- The GOP Dream Plan - Basically, Republicans hired Anthony Quinn, author of the California Target Book to come up with a set of maps when they first challenged the maps for legality, and now they want to try it again. The Court said this would take too long and would not yield a better map than the final option.
- The Commission map - The SoS and the Commission argued that the commission map best meets the goals of Art XXI, is ready to be implemented, and would cause the least amount of upheavel. Ultimately, the Court agreed, adding that any new plan would not be vetted by the public at all and yield additional hardship
Now, while seemingly less interesting, the question of authority seems to have been a more controversial question. In fact, Justice Liu wrote a concurring opinion, but pointed out that the Court did not need to come to a decision on whether they have the power to intercede in a situation where the referendum is only likely to succeed. I'll not dwell too long on this issue, but if you are interested, read the concurring opinion down there at the end of the decision.
To put it as succinctly as possible, Justice Liu feels that the majority could have come to the decision of using the Commission's map without deciding that "under California Constitution, article VI, section 10, this court is authorized to issue an order to show cause and decide which districts should be used in the event a proposed referendum directed at a Commission-certified redistricting map qualifies for the ballot, even in the absence of a showing that the proposed referendum is likely to qualify for the ballot."
He felt that the decision could have been arrived at simply by looking at the superiority of the Commission's map as an interim map. Legally, narrowly tailored decisions are preferred, so this one went too far. Perhaps Liu is right that at some point in the future this decision could be abused for political purposes, but ultimately it is a question that will bear more importance in the future than it does for the 2012 Senate maps.
And so, as they say, that is a quick summary of the case.
As I mentioned earlier, the Supreme Court decided a few things on redistricting today. Obviously this is a major blow to the Republicans. Let the whining commence:
Republican State Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, a leader of the referendum drive, blasted the ruling as "shortsighted and disrespectful" of California voters who signed petitions and are awaiting the opportunity to vote on the commission's Senate maps.
"They kind of gutted the whole idea behind the referendum process," said Dave Gilliard, another leader of the drive to kill the maps.
Peter Yao, current chairman of the commission, countered that use of the commission maps is important to maintain electoral stability and that the challenge is based on "partisan self interest" that has "cost precious taxpayer dollars to defend."(SacBee)
Except that, as the court stated in the decision the power of referendum isn't the only constitutional right in question in this case. The power of referendum, which grants to 5 percent of the state's voters the power to put to a vote, does not override all other constitutional rights.
But whine as they may, the Commission's maps do present a very good Democratic opportunity to pick up that fateful 27th seat. With Sen. Blakeslee already saying he wouldn't run in the Commission's district, there are few routes for the Republicans to maintain 14 seats. Possible, certainly, but they'll need a pretty strong election cycle.
It is all rather ironic, really. Now that Schwarzenegger got his wish in the redistricting initiative, the Republicans are freaking out. While the Republicans (and ProPublica) whine that the system was gamed, six Republican appointees just finalized (mostly) the process.
As was said on Twitter by many Sacramento-watchers, what could the CRP have done with all the money they just wasted on this measure. It now seems rather hard to fathom that the CRP either has the resources to pass this measure, or would even want to. Who knows what other map is around the corner. This was really all about stalling the Commission maps for a cycle. It would have been expensive and unlikely that they could defeat the maps, and the CRP knew that. They were just hoping to hold on for one more cycle.
So much for that. I'll be posting a brief summary of the legal opinion shortly.
Court must decide how they want to intervene with impending referendum possible in June
by Brian Leubitz
UPDATE: Here is the decision in PDF. Basically the Court opted for the suggestion that I believe was made by Justice Liu to use the Commission's maps on an interim basis if the referendum does succeed in getting on the ballot. At the hearing, Justice Liu noted that it was at the very least one way of meeting all the goals of redistricting initiative. So, on that, we now know the maps we'll be voting on in June and November. More in a bit.
At the beginning of the month, the courts held a hearing on what do about the Senate maps. As you may recall, the Republicans spent a bunch of money, mostly from Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph, to gather signatures to put the Senate map to a referendum. You see, the maps present something of an existential crisis for the Senate Republican caucus. While it isn't a sure thing that Democrats will exceed the necessary 27 Senators to attain 2/3 in the Senate, the new map presents an exceedingly good opportunity to do so. Heck, Sam Blakeslee has already said he wouldn't run again unless his district changes. After that, you basically only need to pick up one more seat from 2 or 3 lean-Dem opportunities.
And dipping below 1/3 of the Senate would basically mean that the swing vote would no longer be a Republican, but a conservative Democrat. It is a prospect that would dry up funding from lobbyists, as who really wants to lobby an irrelevant politician? Whatever power they do have through the supermajority revenue measure would do little for them. They claim they gathered sufficient signatures, but that is far from clear. As of right now, the status of the initiative is that it had enough signatures to not be bounced at the random check stage, but not enough that it didn't have to get a more thorough check. The more thorough check won't be decided until mid to late February.
The problem with that is that it would leave precious little time to come up with some other map to vote on for the June "primary" election. The Supreme Court's hearing thus addressed which of many map options they could use, what the meaning of "likely to qualify" is, and whether they could use the Commission's map instead of drawing their own.
The decision is expected at 10AM today, and will be published on the Court's website. You can also find the video of the oral hearing here.