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CA Common Cause corrects 10/1 meeting information and requirements for redistricting

From: domainremoved <Helen>
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2019 09:14:00 -0700

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October 17, 2019

Honorable Mayor Mueller
Honorable City Council Members
City of Menlo Park

RE: Redistricting Committee or Commission Options

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers:

For the past several years, Common Cause has worked to promote redistricting reform at the local level, including sponsoring new state laws allowing local governments to adopt independent redistricting commissions. As an organization, we firmly support the use of independent, representative, and transparent redistricting commissions at all levels of government. On behalf of Common Cause, I commend the City of Menlo Park for its successful 2018 advisory commission process, and encourage the City to build on that experience in adopting an independent commission for 2021.

In reviewing the recording of the October 1, 2019 council meeting, I wanted to offer some additional clarifying information regarding local redistricting. I hope this may assist the Council in its decision on whether to pursue an advisory or independent commission in 2021.


The deadline for local redistricting was just recently changed with the passage of AB 849 (Bonta) this year. While the staff presentation identified October 31, 2021 as the deadline for local redistricting,[1] the newly-adopted deadline depends on when a city holds its first election after census data is published.[2] For cities that will hold their next election on November 8, 2022, the deadline would be June 10, 2022 (151 days before the city’s next election). The City Council may, of course, always set an earlier date for completing the redistricting process.

Other deadlines for commissions mentioned in the staff presentation, including an August deadline for advisory commissions and a September deadline for independent commissions, no longer apply. The Council may set deadlines for commissions. For independent commissions, if no deadline is set, the commission would use the same deadline that the Council would otherwise be subject to: June 10, 2022.

Independent Commission Selection Process

There also seemed to be some confusion at the meeting as to how independent commissioners would or could be appointed. Elections Code Section 23003 provides local governments with a great deal of flexibility as to how commissioners on independent commissions are appointed. The only two requirements are that (1) the application process be open to all eligible residents and (2) the commissioners not be directly appointed by the council or any city elected official.[3]

There are a variety of models at the local level for how commissioners are appointed. For example, in the City of San Diego, a panel of retired judges reviews applications and appoints commissioners. In the City of Santa Barbara, retired judges are the redistricting commission. In San Francisco, the City’s Elections Task Force appoints a subset of commissioners.

Most local governments with independent commissions have moved towards a random selection process, modelled off of the State Commission. Under this model, a subset of commissioners are randomly selected; those commissioners then select the final commissioners. Menlo Park used this model for its advisory commission in 2018. In addition to removing applicants who fail to meet commissioner eligibility criteria, most (but not all) jurisdictions have a screening body narrow the pool of applicants prior to conducting the random draw, as another check against politically-biased applicants. For example, Sacramento and Long Beach have their Ethics Commission review the pool of applicants; Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County has its Registrar of Voters perform this function; and in Oakland the panel consists of a retired judge, law or public policy student, and a member of a good government nonprofit.[4]

I also wanted to clarify a few additional points of confusion from the meeting:

• Direct Appointment: Direct council appointment of commissioners is allowed for advisory commissions, but is notallowed for independent commissions.

• Election: While the members of an independent commission could hypothetically be elected, as was suggested at the meeting, we know of no local jurisdiction (or state) that does so. Organizing an election just to elect one-time commissioners is likely not a feasible option.

• Retired Judges: Retired judges may be used to select commissioners for independent commissions. This selection method is not limited to advisory commissions.


To minimize the likelihood that commissioners will be politically biased, state law does set strict minimum eligibility requirements for members of independent commissions.[5] (There are also eligibility requirements for members of advisory commissions, but they are significantly less stringent.[6])

However, the 5-year residency requirement, which Menlo Park required in 2018, is not a requirement of state law. State law requires only that commissioners be residents of the city, but sets no durational requirement. A durational requirement of some length may, nonetheless, be desirable, to ensure commissioners have some familiarity with the neighborhoods and communities of the city.

Post-Service Restrictions

State law does restrict some of the post-service activities of commissioners.[7] Most significantly, it prohibits commissioners for running for office in the districts they drew. Commissioners are also prohibited, for four years, from serving as elected official staff, receiving a noncompetitively bid contract, or registering as a city lobbyist.

Commissioners are also prohibited from being appointed to city offices, but only for two years. Depending on when the commission is constituted, this means that prior redistricting commissioners may be eligible for appointment to this new commission.


Helen Grieco
Northern California Organizer
California Common Cause


[1] Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 21602.

[2] AB 849 – new Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 21602.

[3] Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 23003(b).

[4] For more models, see the Ordinance Database at www.localredistricting.org<http://www.localredistricting.org/>.

[5] Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 23003(d).

[6] Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 23002(c).

[7] Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 23003(e).

Helen Grieco
Northern California Organizer
California Common Cause
P.O. Box 2953 Petaluma, CA 94953
415.531.1774 hgrieco_at_(domainremoved)CA Common Cause <http://www.commoncause.org/ca>
Twitter _at_(domainremoved)Facebook   <http://www.facebook.com/commoncauseca>

Received on Thu Oct 17 2019 - 09:06:01 PDT

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