The California Supreme Court finished hearing arguments against the new state Senate districts Tuesday morning. The case is an attempt by Orange County GOP activist Julie Vandermost to roll back the work of the California Redistricting Commission, and according to KPCC's Julie Small, it may have succeeded.
Vandermost, with the support of the California Republican Party, argues that the new districts do not follow guidelines to make districts compact, with lines drawn around communities of interests and generally recognized city and county boundaries. Analysts say the new lines leave incumbent Republicans vulnerable, and opponents to the maps say it could all lead to a Democratic supermajority.
The law that established the redistricting commission included the right for California voters to overturn any maps the commission draws if a referendum seems likely to appear on the fall ballot, and the GOP has rounded up signatures in an attempt to put one there. They've accrued 513,000 signatures and are shy of 550,000 to make the impending election.
Small said that the San Francisco hearing revolved around the question of whether the referendum would qualify. According to Small, the secretary of state’s attorney argued the sensibility of undoing months of work for an unpredictable outcome. However, the judges are likely to get involved.
"They said that the arguments being presented by the Secretary of State's attorney [were] basically like saying that 'Well, you guys can't get involved unless it looks likely that referendum's going to qualify, but by the time you know that, it will be too late to do anything about it,’ and the court really bristled at that," Small said. "It seems like it now comes down to, which solution, what's the answer."
Small reported that judges asked about existing maps that could be used and "the most expeditious way to get the districts drawn that would seem equitable and fair."
The GOP was not looking to sue, nor asking judges to weigh in on whether the districts violated any terms of the initiative, Small went on to say. The GOP's attorney was "just asking [the judges] to honor the will of the people, which is if the referendum passes, they have the right to suspend the maps that were drawn by the commission," she said.
Julie Small, KPCC's State Capital Reporter