How voting districts are drawn can have a huge impact on who gets a say in our government – and who doesn’t. Greenlining works to make sure that district lines are drawn in a way that’s fair and that ensures that communities of color can have their voiced heard in choosing our leaders.
California Redistricting Reform
Greenlining played a strong role in the implementation of Proposition 11, passed by California voters in 2008, which made major changes in the way our state draws legislative districts. Civil rights groups, including Greenlining, had misgivings about Prop. 11, which took authority for drawing district lines away from the state legislature and gave it to an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Many feared that the new commission wouldn’t represent California’s diversity, leaving communities of color without a strong enough voice.
So when Prop 11 passed, we jumped in to ensure that our fears did not become reality. We launched a recruitment effort to identify, recruit, and prepare diverse candidates to apply for positions on the commission. We also implemented a statewide civic engagement campaign which included framing the issues for ethnic media, and educating and training community members on how to provide public comment during the process in seven regions: the San Francisco Bay Area, Stockton/Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, the Inland Empire, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In addition, we monitored the entire process, providing feedback and suggestions to the commission.
While no redistricting process is perfect, our efforts helped produce a commission that did a fair job of representing California’s diverse citizenry, drawing district lines that were generally perceived as equitable.
In addition to the commission process, Greenlining helped pass legislation to make redistricting fairer. In 2011, we supported AB 420, which requires the Department of Corrections to provide the Redistricting Commission information about the last-known address of inmates. This will allow future commissions to account for the prison population by repopulating them at their home addresses and do away with what is known as “prison gerrymandering.”
In 2012 we supported SB 1096, which made important technical adjustments to streamline the redistricting process. These include allowing more time to select commissioners, and requiring that a public draft map of districts be posted no later than July, with 14 days of public review and comment before any changes are made.
Although redistricting only happens once every decade, Greenlining will continue to keep a close eye on this important process to ensure that our communities’ voices are heard.
Recently, Greenlining has supported districting reforms, such as California AB 2715 (Hernandez) introduced in 2014, to reduce the negative impact of at-large elections on the ability of communities of color to elect candidates of their choice. We have also support efforts to reform the way redistricting is done in cities like Oakland, advocating for policies that take the power out of the hands of political incumbents and draw districts based on a set of criteria that advance fairness.