Redistricting in California

by Hans A. von Spakovsky

Earlier this week I spotlighted the consultants that Virginia’s advisory redistricting commission used to draw Eric Cantor and other Republicans out of their congressional districts. The looniness has now shifted to California.

The new “Citizens” Redistricting Commission in California has announced four finalists for its “Voting Rights Act Counsel,” who will help the commission draw new district lines. This is the commission set up by a 2008 voter-approved referendum that shifted responsibility for redistricting from the state legislature to a 14-member commission. According to the commission’s website, its legal advisory committee plans to make a final recommendation tomorrow. The commission will decide this Friday who the paid counsel will be.

Apparently, two of the four finalists for this position are Federal Compliance Consulting and GRD Consulting. Those are the assumed business names of two former career lawyers who used to work in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice — Bruce Adelson and Gilda Daniels. Adelson and Daniels don’t have a nonpartisan bone in their bodies. They are left-wing ideologues I worked with when I was at the Justice Department. They would be ludicrous hires for a commission whose alleged purpose is to take partisanship out of the redistricting process. Adelson consistently pushed the most radical legal positions possible in the cases that I reviewed — positions that went far beyond what the law required. And Daniels is one of the country’s leading vote-fraud deniers.

One case that involved Daniels concerned a jurisdiction that was qualified to bail out from coverage under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. She recommended that the jurisdiction be required to submit any change affecting voting to the local branch of the NAACP for approval for ten years after the federal court declared it free from coverage. This provision was totally inappropriate — particularly in a jurisdiction with no history of any sort of voting-related discrimination — and the Division disapproved the recommendation. Still, it is amazing that Daniels would even float such an absurd idea — giving a private advocacy organization complete veto authority over the actions of duly elected representatives.

She also weighed in on an Alabama requirement that convicted felons submit a DNA sample for a state database as a prerequisite to obtaining a pardon. According to Daniels, this law needed to be approved by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act — an equally bizarre claim for which there is no legal support whatsoever.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission would be well advised to avoid repeating Virginia’s mistake. They should hire competent, nonpartisan voting-rights counsel who will not try to draw redistricting maps that favor one political party over the other or represent the interests of private advocacy organizations.

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