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Redistricting & Voting Rights Update: Legislation
Governor Newsom Signs Major Overhaul of Local Redistricting Rules. Governor Gavin Newsom signed sweeping new legislation that comprehensively overhauls the rules for redistricting after the 2020 Census for California cities, charter cities, and counties. The new law, AB 849, significantly changes the criteria, timing, and procedures for redistricting. These changes are mandatory for affected cities and counties. Specifically, AB 849:
- Revises and standardizes redistricting criteria, procedures, and requirements that cities and counties must follow when they adopt or adjust the boundaries of their electoral districts.
- Cities and counties with districts are required to establish district boundaries, to the extent practical, based on the following criteria in the following order of priority:
- Population equality of the residents of the county or city as determined by the census.
- Compliance with United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- Districts shall be geographically contiguous.
- Geographic integrity of any local neighborhood or local community of interest shall be respected in a manner that minimizes its division. Importantly, “communities of interest” do not include the relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.
- Districts of counties shall respect the geographic integrity of a city or census designated place.
- District boundaries should be easily identifiable and understandable by residents. Natural and artificial barriers, streets, or boundaries of cities or counties shall bound districts.
- To the extent practicable, and where it does not conflict with the preceding criteria in this subdivision, supervisorial or council districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness in a manner that nearby areas of population are not bypassed in favor of more distant populations.
- District boundaries may not be adopted for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against a political party.
- The board or council must hold at least four public hearings where the public may provide input regarding the composition of the districts.
- Establishes specific timelines for the adoption of a plan following each census.
- Limits the circumstances in which district lines can be altered between censuses.
Establishes requirements for public outreach, including to minority communities, and specific means by which information about the process is to be disseminated, including the requirement that each local government maintain a website dedicated to redistricting. (10/8/19)
New Redistricting Rules Proposed (updated 9/3/2019)
Just like 10 years ago, California cities and counties must consider redistricting after release of the 2020 Census results, but the rules may be very different than in the last round of redistricting.
AB 849 (Bonta) Click here for the text of the bill
Status: Passed Assembly (55-20); Amended by Senate Appropriations
Next Step: Senate Floor scheduled for September 3, 2019
Summary of Some Key Provisions:
This bill applies to all cities, general law and charter alike, and to counties.
The bill changes how populations are determined for redistricting purposes, including counting incarcerated persons whose last known place of residence is within a jurisdiction (compare the long-standing opinion of the California Attorney General here). Once the law is settled, we will provide more information on the topic.
The bill establishes mandatory criteria to be considered in redrawing district boundaries. The criteria, in priority order are:
- Geographic contiguity
- Minimizing the division of communities of interest, which is defined as “a population that shares common social or economic interests that should be included within a single  district for purposes of its effective and fair representation”
- Geographic integrity of a political subdivisions and census designated places (counties only)
- Ease of district boundary identifiability and understandability by residents
- Geographic compactness
- Not favoring or discriminating against a particular political party
- For charter cities, there is a provision about assigning district numbers.
The bill changes the timing for redistricting: no earlier than August 1, 2021 and no later than 151 days before the jurisdiction’s regular election occurring after March 1, 2022. If the jurisdiction fails to meet that deadline, the power to redistrict falls to the superior court.
The bill increases the number of public hearings required for redistricting legislation, specifies the timing of public hearings, and mandates public outreach, among other procedural changes.
AB 1724 (Salas) Click here for the text of the bill
Next Step: Assembly Elections and Redistricting hearing cancelled at the Author’s request
This bill would require every general law city and county to establish an independent redistricting commission to adjust boundary lines for districts for the legislative body following each decennial census, with certain requirements for commission membership and selection.
SB 139 (Allen) Click here for the text of the bill
Status: Passed Senate (29-7); Amended by Assembly Appropriations
Next Step: Assembly Floor scheduled for September 3, 2019
This bill would require a county with more than 400,000 residents to establish either a 9- or 12-member independent redistricting commission to adjust boundary lines for districts for the Board of Supervisors following each decennial census.
The bill specifies qualifications for commission members and specifies that the political party affiliation of the commission’s members shall be proportional to the county’s party registration, with qualifications.
The bill also specifies additional aspects of the commission application and selection process.