Local Redistricting Commissions

Every ten years, cities and counties must redraw their council and supervisorial districts to ensure they remain substantially equal in population. This process, known as “redistricting,” is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Without redistricting, population shifts over time could cause districts within a jurisdiction to have vastly different populations, causing the residents of more populous districts to be unfairly underrepresented.

In most jurisdictions, the city council or board of supervisors is responsible for redistricting. In the last redistricting cycle in 2011, to increase public participation and transparency, many jurisdictions created citizen commissions to recommend new district lines; under prior state law, such commissions could be advisory only. However, several charter cities, based in their home rule powers under the California Constitution, went a step further and created independent commissions with the power to adopt district boundaries to help depoliticize the redistricting process. In 2012, San Diego County sought and received a special legislative exemption to establish its own independent commission.

With the success and popularity of the state Citizens Redistricting Commission and similar commissions in charter cities, many local jurisdictions have become interested in creating local redistricting commissions of their own. In 2016, the Legislature by a strong bipartisan vote passed Senate Bill 1108 (Allen) to authorize general law cities and counties to establish independent commissions. Beginning January 1, 2017, any general law city or county may now, if it wants to, adopt an independent commission by enacting a resolution or ordinance that meets certain minimum criteria.

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