The Political Blood Sport Known as Redistricting Comes to L.A.

The proposed mapYesterday the Los Angeles' 21-member Redistricting Commission released its draft boundary lines for the 15 City Council districts in the city. The proposed map is already drawing fire from many elected officials and community activists. You can bet the that word gerrymandering will often be heard throughout Los Angeles over the next month and a half.

The city's Redistricting Commission is responsible for proposing shifts to the 15 council boundaries based on changes in the population. The commission is working off demographic information gathered during the 2010 census. According to those figures, Latinos make up almost half of the people living in Los Angeles (48.5%), Caucasians account for less than a third of the population (28.6%), and Asians and African Americans each account for roughly 10% of the population - 11.3% and 9.2%, respectively. Very broadly, under the Voting Rights Act, the newly drawn lines should ensure that minority groups have an ample opportunity to be elected to office.

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We have seen the battle that is about to play out on the city level unravel on the state level for quite some time. On the state level, thanks to two successful ballot initiatives, an independent citizens redistricting commission drew the state legislative lines. The commission crisscrossed the state hearing public testimony.

The city commissioners drew the maps in closed door sessions. These meetings did not have to conform to California's open meeting law. However, the commissioners did listen to public testimony.

The commission garnered the minimum number of votes to go forward, voting 11 to 6 to circulate the draft maps to the public. The final maps must be approved by March 1. The council will then vote on the maps.

Before the final lines are drawn, Angelenos can expect a power struggle between our council members. Lines matter.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government in Los Angeles every week. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

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