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Between the Lines: Democrats Open Up on Redistricting; Arizona Preps

Editor’s Note: Every decade the states redraw district lines following the release of the U.S. Census. This column will explore redistricting news on the ground as it develops.

Pennsylvania: Democrats: Include Us In Redistricting, Please

After suffering a brutal 2010 election cycle, state Democrats have another reason to be depressed.

With Republicans now controlling the governor’s mansion and the state Legislature, Democrats will have little influence in the redrawing of the Keystone State’s Congressional districts.

“Where are we? We’re left out,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn told Roll Call recently. “All we hope for is inclusion. We hope that the Republican leadership welcomes us as the respectful voice of the minority opposition. We just want the lines to be fair and equitable.”

Those are hardly encouraging words from the leader of Pennsylvania Democrats, although he noted that the process is just starting.

“If they’re only drawing the lines to dig moats around their castles, that’s not a good thing,” Burn said.

“We would urge residents and Pennsylvanians to be very proactive in this process and pay close attention to what the lines are going to look like, and why they’re being drawn that way and what effect it’s going to have on their ability to have a voice in government. That’s what we’re going to do.”

— Steve Peoples

California: Bowen: Beach to Remain in 36th District

A handful of candidates are running in the special election for the open 36th district, which, like all other districts in California, will have different borders by this time next year.

But according to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who is running for the seat, at least one border of this coastal, Los Angeles County-based district will not change.

“One thing we know about this district is that it will start at the ocean. Because only on the borders can you say, OK, you’ve got to start here,” Bowen told the Beach Cities Democratic Club last week.

She stressed to the activists that public review was instrumental in this newly formed independent redistricting commission and that they should focus on whether the districts are composed of a community of interest.

Later, in an in-person interview with Roll Call, Bowen offered more detail about the voter-approved commission.

“This is its first-ever time to be drawing the districts,” Bowen said.

“But the commission is now in place, and the secretary of state’s office actually did the initial support of the commission, which meant we provided the phone lines, computers and stuff like that, and then launched them into their own space as soon as we could,” Bowen said.

“So this is new, but there is a lot of provision for public review, and one of the keys is what is a community of interest.”

— Kyle Trygstad

Arizona: Final Commission Member to Be Selected

The state’s Independent Redistricting Commission is expected to have its fifth and final member chosen at its open meeting this afternoon in Phoenix.

Four partisan commissioners have already been selected by state legislative leaders — Republicans Richard Stertz and Scott Freeman and Democrats Linda McNulty and Jose Herrera. The fifth, selected by the four existing commissioners, will be a registered independent and will serve as the commission chairman. After the chairman is chosen and sworn in by the Republican secretary of state, the commission will decide on dates for future meetings.

This is the second time Arizona has used an independent commission to redraw its districts. Thanks to population increases, the state is gaining a ninth Congressional district.

— K.T.

Send news items on redistricting to Between the Lines here.

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