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2 locals vie for Citizens Redistricting Commission seats

Final selections for the controversial new body will be announced Dec. 31.

September 08, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

Two area residents are among the 120 candidates vying for a spot on California's new 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, which will be responsible in the coming year for redrawing the state's Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization district lines.

LaDrena Dansby, a civil engineer from La Cañada Flintridge, and Martha Jimenez, a civil-rights attorney and public-policy expert who resides in Glendale, advanced last month to the third phase of the year-long application process.

The 120 finalists, which include 40 Democrats, 40 Republicans and 40 independents, are currently being interviewed by the state's three-member Applicant Review Panel, which will narrow the pool to 60 candidates by Oct. 1. Live video feeds of the interviews are viewable on the Citizens Redistricting Commission website, http://www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

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"The panel has reached a significant milestone in the process of forming our state's first independent citizens' redistricting commission," California State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a statement. "As the November 2010 election approaches, we are reminded that the way our legislative and Board of Equalization districts have historically been drawn will soon change."

Every 10 years, following the federal census, states are required to redraw the boundaries of all political districts in order to reflect the most recent population data. The goal is to create districts with comparable population counts, ensuring that residents in each district are equally represented.

In California, the redrawing of district lines was previously done by elected state officials. But the process was manipulated and the boundaries gerrymandered to ensure heavily Democrat or heavily Republican districts, thereby protecting incumbents on election day.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission was born out of Proposition 11, also known as the Voters FIRST Act, a ballot initiative passed in November 2008 that transferred the once-a-decade responsibility of redrawing district lines from state elected officials to an independent, non-partisan body of private citizens.

"It is a big role," said Margarita Fernandez, spokeswoman for the State Auditor's Office, of the commissioners. "It is certainly shifting the responsibility of who draws the lines for the Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization districts. The work that they do will be in place for the next 10 years."

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