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California Supreme Court wrestles with Senate district maps

January 10, 2012 | 12:28 pm

The California Supreme Court expressed concern Tuesday that there might be too little time to redraw new voter maps for this year's state Senate elections, even though the existing boundaries for the political districts may have to be put on hold pending a November referendum.

During a special session, the state high court grappled with which alternative maps to use should the justices determine that a proposed referendum on the issue is likely to qualify for the November ballot.

"There simply in this particular case isn't sufficient time to come up with a so-called model plan," said Justice Joyce L. Kennard.

Republicans unhappy with the boundaries drawn by a nonpartisan citizen commission for state Senate elections this year have gathered petition signatures to force a referendum on the new maps in November. The court is grappling with a law that says such a referendum would put the new maps on holding pending a vote.

Signatures supporting the referendum are now being counted, and backers express confidence the measure will qualify. But the court must decide which maps to use by the end of the month because candidates for the state Senate must declare their intentions to run for the June primary.

Counties have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to report the results of their random checks of petition signatures. As of midday, all but seven counties had reported, the secretary of state's office said.  

It appeared that the random counts did not yield a high enough percentage to qualify the referendum and that a full count of the more than 711,000 signatures collected would be required. 

The measure needs 504,760 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Counties would have until mid-March to complete their counts. The candidate filing period for the June 5 California primary ends March 9 for most candidates and March 14 in races in which an eligible incumbent is not seeking reelection.

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