Group set to back redistricting revamp

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Sacramento Bee

Common Cause, a national government watchdog group, is poised to endorse changes to California’s redistricting system in a meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Washington today.

The group, which has been meeting with California officials and activists on the issue in recent weeks, has long favored a nonpartisan approach to drawing legislative and congressional district lines.

In California, the Republican governor has proposed taking the job away from the Legislature and turning it over to a panel of judges.

Chellie Pingree, president and chief executive officer of Common Cause, said in an interview Wednesday that the group would “have a conversation with the governor” about whether it will endorse his approach.

“I don’t think there is a final decision yet,” Pingree said. “Our policy people and their policy people have been talking and they’ve come a long way, but you always want to have that face-to-face.”

Common Cause, Pingree added, has “a very big interest in the issue of redistricting. We’ve been meeting with people working on this issue in Florida and California and places in between.”

Jamie Court of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said he spoke Wednesday with national staff members from Common Cause as well as current and former board members of the organization’s California chapter. He said they told him the organization is set to endorse a compromise redistricting proposal with Schwarzenegger today.

Ted Costa, author of a redistricting measure proposed for California’s ballot that Schwarzenegger has yet to endorse, said he expects Common Cause to endorse an amended version of a redistricting bill carried by Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

McCarthy’s ACA 3 currently calls for new maps to be drawn by three retired state or federal judges chosen at random from a pool of applicants identified by the California Judicial Council, the policy-making body for the state’s courts. The panel would be required to draw competitive districts in which the gap between Democrats and Republicans would not exceed 7 percentage points.

Costa said Common Cause is seeking changes that would expand the pool of judges from three to five and make it easier to elect minority candidates.
The Bee’s Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or [email protected]

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