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Which State Senate Maps Will Show the Way?

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The California Supreme Court building
The California Supreme Court building

Challenges to California's newly drawn legislative lines are abound. As I have written about here, here, and here, opponents of our state's newly drawn district lines have waged a two-step attack and have taken their battles to the ballot box and the courthouse.

No one can predict the success of opponents' challenges. Judges may find that the lines are constitutionally drawn. Voters may decide that the independent redistricting commission did its job and that the current lines will stand.

This type of uncertainty is less than helpful. Incumbents and would-be-candidates do not know the shape and size of their districts. Imagine a scenario in which one set of district lines are in place for a primary election and another set for the general. Chaos would ensue.

The California Supreme Court will step in to give some certainty to the ever-volatile world of redistricting if a ballot measure seeking to overturn the newly drawn state senate lines qualifies for next year's ballot. That effort is led by a GOP-backed group known as FAIR (Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting). The State Supreme Court has already looked with disfavor on one request by FAIR. In that case the group asked the court to find the newly drawn maps unconstitutional under the voting rights act.

It is no surprise that the GOP is less than thrilled about the newly drawn senate lines. Many predict that the lines could allow Democrats to pick up a number of additional seats in the state's upper legislative house. If that happens, Republican membership in the state senate could fall below one-third, the magic number needed to block tax and fee increases.

Our state's highest court is set to rule early next year about which state Senate lines will apply in next year's primary and general elections. The California Supreme Court has set an expedited briefing schedule. Oral arguments will be held in early January.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user Steve Rhodes and was used under a Creative Commons License.

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