Each redistricting dataset merges the electoral data the SWDB collected and processed over the preceding decade with the most current census data (PL94-171). The result is a census block level dataset that allows for longitudinal analysis of electoral data over time on the same unit of analysis. Electoral data consist of the Statements of Vote (SOV) and Statements of Registration (SOR) for each statewide election. These data are collected from the Registrars of Voters for each of the 58 California counties with each election.
The SWDB collects the Statement of Vote and the Statement of Registration along with various geography files from each of the 58 counties for every statewide election. The Statement of Vote is a precinct level dataset and precincts in California change frequently between elections. The goal of the SWDB is to make election data available that can be compared over time, on the same unit of analysis – a precinct, a census block or a census tract.
Justin Ho, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
San Francisco Chronicle
August 2, 2010
What has historically been a bureaucratic and secretive process of drawing California's political boundaries has now become a contentious fight over race, power and government transparency.
Two years ago, voters created an independent commission to redraw the boundaries of California's legislative districts, a process known as redistricting. But even before the new Citizens Redistricting Commission has begun its work, it has landed in a political tug-of-war between good-government groups and Democratic insiders.
Two propositions this fall will allow voters to decide whether to expand the commission's power or eliminate it altogether. The commission, created in 2008 when voters narrowly approved Proposition 11, is charged with independently drawing state districts every 10 years.
Prop. 11 took redistricting powers away from the Legislature, which had been accused of drawing districts to strategically incorporate or exclude communities and keep districts safe for incumbents. Supporters of the measure said it would cause more moderate candidates to be elected because districts wouldn't be so heavily skewed in favor of a single political party.
The ballot measures before voters in November come as the state auditor works to form the independent commission. On July 21, the initial pool of 30,000 applicants for the 14-member body was whittled down to 120; by the end of the year, the final commission will be named.
Supporters of the commission are now backing Proposition 20, which would add congressional redistricting to the commission's duties.
"If the Legislature was back in control of the redistricting process, they would just go back to their old tricks," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause and an author of Prop. 11.
But voters will also be asked to vote on Proposition 27, which would kill the commission completely, handing the duty back to the Legislature. It has support from Democratic Party stalwarts, including former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; and U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood (Los Angeles County). Berman's brother, Michael, is a major redistricting consultant and is working on the effort to kill the commission.
Opponents of the commission say the Legislature better represents the state's diversity.
"There's just no way 14 people can represent the diversity of the state," said Kevin Murray, a former state senator fighting Prop. 20. "Members of the Legislature get to know everything about the district they represent."
Supporters of the commission argue that politicians want to keep redistricting powers to protect their seats.
"The diversity aspect itself is a smokescreen to hide the real issue," said Laura Dixon, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Dixon said the other side is "trying to regain political power for themselves" by drawing their own districts.
However, even some of the commission's supporters acknowledge that state officials must be mindful of its final makeup. Tunua Thrash of the Greenlining Institute - a research and advocacy group for communities of color - noted that the original measure required Democrats, Republicans and independent voters to be represented on the panel but does not require geographic, racial or gender diversity.
"The word 'diversity' is used (in the law), but it's so broad that we want to make sure that it's definitely inclusive of racial and gender diversity," she said.
She also questioned whether the commission will have any effect at all.
"We're supportive of communities having an opportunity to participate," Thrash said. "Whether this will be any more effective than the legislators themselves is left to be seen."
Drawing the lines The Citizens Redistricting Commission was created in 2008 when voters narrowly approved Proposition 11. It is charged with independently drawing state districts every 10 years.
Prop. 20 Would add congressional redistricting to the Citizens Redistricting Commission duties.
Prop. 27 Would kill the Citizens Redistricting Commission completely, handing all duties back to the Legislature.
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