State Auditor Elaine Howle speaks in San Diego on Tuesday. Photo by Chris Jennewein

California kicked off the second decade of citizen-led political redistricting this week with a public appeal for volunteers to serve on the 14-member commission.

The Golden State pioneered a process in the United States by which citizens—not state legislators—draw political boundaries to prevent politically-motivated gerrymandering and promote fair representation.

State auditor Elaine Howle was in San Diego on Tuesday on the second day of a statewide tour to appeal for applicants to serve on the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

“Here were are, 10 years later, looking for more Californians to step up,” said Howle. “It’s all about our future.”

In just a day and a half, 600 applications have been received online. The application period stretches until Aug. 9. A decade ago, a total of 30,000 applications were received over a 60-day period.

The redistricting commission was established by a successful ballot initiative in 2008. The law calls for the commission to be composed of five Democrats, five Republicans and four members of other parties or independent voters.

The commissioners are charged with using data from the 2020 Census to create districts for Congress, state Senate, state Assembly and Board of Equalization.

Howle was accompanied by representatives of both the Democratic and Republican parties, the League of Women Voters and local community groups to stress the importance of diverse representation on the commission.

“Gerrymandering can and will happen if we cannot get a diverse group to step forward and draw these maps,” said Jordan Gascon, executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego.

Al Abdallah, chief operating officer of the Urban League of San Diego County, said the commission is “critically important” to the local African American community.

“It is so critically important that those who are not a part of the political process are involved in this redistricting,” he said.

A number of other states are attempting to set up similar redistricting commissions and face opposition from entrenched political parties. The U.S. Supreme Court has become in embroiled in the question of whether districts drawn by state legislators are ultimately fair to voters.

“The state of California is really leading the way,” said Howle. “Our experiment in democracy has really worked.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.