PD Editorial: Here’s a chance to help reshape California’s political maps

Now that the Trump administration won’t be allowed to suppress participation in next year’s U.S. census with a citizenship question, fans of good government are thinking about what comes after the count.|

Now that the Trump administration won't be allowed to suppress participation in next year's U.S. census with a citizenship question, fans of good government are thinking about what comes after the count. California already is recruiting for the independent redistricting commission that will draw new legislative and congressional districts based on the census. Unfortunately, the applicant pool so far isn't as diverse as it could be. Some groups have asked for an extension, but it's unnecessary.

California is one of a handful of states that takes most of the politics out of redistricting. Democrats and Republicans no longer get to fudge the lines to serve the parties' needs over the public interest.

The commission will have 14 members when it starts poring over census data in 2021. Without getting too far into the weeds of the selection process and eligibility, know that most Californians who have been registered voters for a few years may serve. The commission also must be “reasonably representative” of the state's diverse groups.

More than 10,000 people had applied as of Friday and been deemed tentatively eligible. But the pool skews toward white males. Women and communities of color are underrepresented relative to their portion of the general population. That's not “reasonably representative.”

Advocates for diversity therefore want more time to activate their communities and encourage people to apply. They've asked that the application deadline, which is Friday, be pushed back a month or two.

The state auditor oversees the application and selection process. If she does extend the deadline, there's probably little harm in it. It's not necessary, though. The state began accepting application in June, and there's still a week left. This hasn't been unfair.

It's not even clear that more time would radically diversify the pool. Applications couldn't be restricted only to women and minorities.

The goal of a diverse independent redistricting commission is an important one. Historically underrepresented groups deserve a strong voice in the conversation about how districts are drawn. When they have it, the final product is better.

But the applicant pool is the wrong focus. The real issue is whether the final commission is diverse and representative of California. As long as there are enough strong candidates from diverse groups among the applicants, the state auditor will be able to place them among the finalists.

As a percentage, Latinos might be underrepresented, but more than 1,000 have applied. So have hundreds of black Californians and thousands of women. The auditor ought to be able to find strong finalists among them. The fact that the applicant pool is skewed just means that the white males will face more competition to advance.

Moreover, the pool could deepen by Friday. In the past week, the number of qualified applicants almost doubled. Increased media coverage, outreach and the deadline are strong motivators for more people to sign up.

The redistricting commission is a cornerstone of fair and equitable democracy in California. If you like studying population data and maps, we hope you'll apply, especially if you bring a perspective that isn't always heard in government. Completing the application takes only a few minutes and can be done online at shapecaliforniasfuture.auditor.ca.gov.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.