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Redistricting complaints lead to call for an independent state commission

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Californias redistricting has some officials calling for an independent nonpartisan commission to draw future district lines, according to Secretary of State Bill Jones.

Part of the redistricting plan signed into law by the governor on Thursday removed Del Norte County from its coastal 2nd Senate District and placed it with the inland 4th Senate District.

As I have stated many times in the past, there are many things that the Legislature does well, but the redrawing of their own district boundaries is not one of them, Jones said.

Jones main complaint is the incumbent protection plan, as he calls it, doesnt fully acknowledge the growth of the states Latino community.

Before the next reapportionment in 2011, California must create an independent nonpartisan commission, appointed by the courts, to be responsible for drawing district lines, Jones said. Only then will we see fair, rational, representative district lines drawn in the best interests of the voters instead of the officeholders.

Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin (D-Santa Rosa), who was visiting Crescent City yesterday, said she had a couple of reasons for being one of the few legislators who voted against the new district plan.

Ten of us in the Assembly voted no all of us coastal Democrats, Strom-Martin said. It was really a protest vote and we had confronted and talked to them about it. Certainly, communities of interest have to be considered in this. It was nonsensical.

Strom-Martin said another reason for her negative vote was because women legislators received the short end of the stick.

Women were drawn out of the Senate districts, she said. There were 10 women affected by this and there was zero consideration for that.

Two senators, Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) and Jack OConnell (D-San Luis Obispo), also voted against the new plan.

Senator Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata), who currently represents Del Norte County in a Democrat-leaning 2nd District, voted for the new boundaries after he had vocally opposed them. Chesbros spokespeople said his vote was intended to show solidarity among the senators.

Senator K. Maurice Johannessen (R-Redding) of the 4th Senate District said the Republican complexion of Del Nortes new district probably wont be affected by the new boundaries.

This district doesnt lend itself much for Democrats because of the population mixture, Johannessen said. Del Norte County is nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans among registered voters.

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