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Justice Department signs off on California redistricting

January 17, 2012 |  6:18 pm

The citizens commission that drew California’s new political maps won an important nod Tuesday from the Department of Justice, which  signed off on the new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts for four Northern California counties.

The counties—Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba—were under scrutiny because of concerns about past possible violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.   The maps required approval, or “pre-clearance” in government jargon, from the federal agency.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Gen. Thomas E. Perez delivered the news to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s attorney and to California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris in a two-paragraph letter.  “The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the” new maps,  Perez wrote.

Stan Forbes, chairman of  the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, said in a statement that  the group was “pleased that the Department of Justice has found [the commission] complied with the Voting Rights Act in drawing the districts” for the four counties.

Forbes contrasted the approval  with the situation in Texas, where the federal court has intervened  in that state’s drawing of new maps.

The California commission drew the maps for the first time since voters took the redistricting job away from  the Legislature in hopes of getting less gerrymandered, more fairly drawn maps.

 Republicans, however, have challenged the commission’s state Senate district and congressional maps.  Elections officials are in the process of determining whether a proposed referendum on the  Senate maps  will qualify for the November ballot, and  a challenge to three Los Angeles-area congressional districts is pending in federal court.


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--Jean Merl

Photo: Two members of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission sign the new maps in August. Credit: Associated Press