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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Supreme Court OKs Independent Redistricting Commissions

PHOTO: California's independent redistricting commission, created just four years ago as part of a sweeping initiative package, will remain in place following a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a similar redistricting system in Arizona. Photo credit: Kathleen Connally/Morguefile.
PHOTO: California's independent redistricting commission, created just four years ago as part of a sweeping initiative package, will remain in place following a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a similar redistricting system in Arizona. Photo credit: Kathleen Connally/Morguefile.
June 30, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Election reforms that introduced an independent redistricting commission in California will remain in place, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a similar redistricting system in Arizona.

California's independent redistricting commission was part of a sweeping initiative package passed in 2008, which replaced a system in which politicians often drew legislative districts to favor incumbents. The redistricting commission certified new electoral district maps in 2011.

Stephen Spaulding, policy counsel with the grassroots advocacy group Common Cause, says the Supreme Court decision is a victory for voters.

"This was a sweeping affirmation of the California model, which allows citizens to draw the lines rather than legislators picking and choosing their voters," he says.

The California reforms also included a switch to an "open" primary, intended to draw more centrist candidates that can appeal to the entire electorate, instead of an extreme wing or faction of a political party. Since the changes, Democrats have added to their majority in Sacramento.

Kathay Feng, national redistricting director of Common Cause in Los Angeles, says the open, public redistricting process has put an end to so-called "backroom deals" meant to create safe seats.

"There were more than a dozen incumbents who either decided not to run, or who were defeated in elections because they didn't have the guaranteed re-election that they used to when district lines were drawn by the Legislature," she says.

Had the decision gone the other way, Feng says California's election system would have been thrown into disarray.

The next round of redistricting is scheduled for 2021, the year after the next census.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA