The Supreme Court is in the midst of deciding a challenge to Arizona’s redistricting lines.
“So what?” you might ask. The case may deal with our strange eastern neighbors, but it has big implications for California. Arizona’s lines were created using a very similar process to California’s – an independent redistricting commission. That means if Arizona’s plan is scrapped, California’s could be next.
I asked Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, a few questions about what Californians can expect from the decision. Levitt has signed an amicus brief supporting the commission.
If the Supreme Court sides with Arizona’s legislature, how vulnerable would California’s redistricting lines be?
The only lines at issue are lines for Congress (not the state Legislature). But the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s federal districts will almost certainly affect California’s federal districts in the same way. There are other states with slightly different processes that could be affected, depending on how the Supreme Court articulates its decision … but California’s process is very similar to Arizona’s in most of the ways material to this case.
Could any other California laws or processes be affected by the decision?
Potentially, yes. The court is deciding who may regulate federal elections. If the court decides that only the Legislature may do so – that really only the Legislature may do so – then it may impact the governor’s ability to veto provisions affecting federal elections, or state courts’ ability to interpret provisions affecting federal elections or the public’s ability to pass initiatives affecting federal elections (or even the public’s ability to pass initiatives that guide or constrain the Legislature’s ability to pass rules affecting federal elections). The court could rule that the processes now in place in California are just fine. But a decision for the Arizona state Legislature – depending on the basis for the decision – could well shake up an awful lot of the rules for federal elections.
Who has the most to gain if California’s redistricting process ultimately gets tossed?
Most immediately? Incumbent members of Congress of the same political party as the members of the dominant members of the state legislature – which means, in California, incumbent Democrats. And eventually, I’d expect state Democrats to redraw federal lines in a way that further increased the chances of electing even more congressional Democrats.
Though this might seem exciting to Democratic voters in the state, I think that the citizens of California would ultimately be the real losers from such an outcome: Not only would they have lost any control of fairness in the federal election process beyond lobbying the state Legislature, but past California legislatures have been all too willing to increase their party’s power at the expense of real communities on the ground, which makes it much harder for voters to hold their elected representatives accountable, no matter what party they’re from.
If you wanna wonk out on this case, here’s some required reading:
• The Brennan Center on other laws and states that could be affected by the case.
• Politico has more on what it all means for California.
School Accountability System Put on Hold – Again
The state Board of Education voted this week to suspend the statewide API system – a ranking of schools based on test scores – for a second year in a row while it works to create a more holistic system.
“All this comes at a time when many school districts, including San Diego Unified, are distancing themselves from years of high-stakes testing,” writes Mario Koran.
The pause on testing and API scores also poses a unique challenge for charter schools, Koran notes, since they use the scores to sell themselves to parents.
Quick News Hits
• Chris Reed notices that Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is playing up his Marine bona fides (he’s a former colonel) now that he’s running for Senate.
• The musical chairs game continues: Assemblyman Brian Jones is making moves toward Joel Anderson’s state Senate seat. (U-T San Diego)
• Speaker Toni Atkins talks up her affordable housing plan in a U-T op-ed.
• Pacific Standard looks at what’s fueling the effort to overturn the plastic bag ban.
What Social Media Taught Us This Week
• There are two things that can bring the parties together in these divided times: asparagus and hairnets.
• Neel Kashkari isn’t our governor but that doesn’t make important thoughts like this one irrelevant.
• The number of termed-out state legislators is about to get real.