COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

S.D. commissioners deserve credit for creating fair redistricting map

Utah democrats have expressed concern that the 2012 redistricting map in Utah will benefit Republicans. Republicans constitute a majority in the Legislature, so they are drawing the new lines.

In California, some observers believe the currently proposed state district maps, drawn by a commission, will give Democrats two more seats in the Assembly by default rather than through competitive races. Republicans are troubled, and the state map is being challenged.

Lawsuits over redistricting in Texas are common every 10 years no matter what process is followed; 2011 is no exception. As in the past, this year’s offended groups are Latinos. A panel of three judges has been called upon to create a new map.

Colorado also has a commission. Nine appointed, independent citizens have volunteered to give their time to draw that state’s new districts. The map is being contested as unfair. At least one of the Republicans on the commission has lodged a complaint and is asking a court to redraw the map.

San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors dropped one redistricting plan after some groups claimed it limited or perhaps eliminated the possibility of the election of a minority supervisor. Some minority groups complained. The supervisors have since drawn another map.

The San Diego redistricting map is being cautiously welcomed by nearly everyone. There are objections, but they are muted.

That’s quite a turnaround. When various groups first took serious notice of the commission of seven people appointed to redesign the voting maps for the city of San Diego, a great many people cried foul. Several groups were especially bitter, claiming labor had outfoxed everyone else.

I joined the cacophony, suggesting the selection process employed to identify the commissioners left a lot to be desired. Three retired judges were supposed to screen the city redistricting commission applicants. One of the three appointed to do the job was unable to participate. The remaining two went forward.

The application itself asked no questions about background that might reveal a bias. As a result, some whose previous experiences and employment suggest they were especially partisan people were appointed to the commission.

After pointing out all of that and more, I also suggested we could hope that the gravity of the job would encourage those involved to act honorably. Judging by the lack of uproar over the map they drew, they did.

Most agree that the seven commissioners, so severely criticized at the outset, followed both the law and their consciences. I’ve not seen what the Democrat Party says about all of this, but the Republican Party says it looks fair. There are no loud labor voices being raised in protest, a thought that gives me some trouble, but it could be they have nothing about which to complain.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association, also an active participant during the process and at least a little concerned about fairness at the time, seems satisfied with the resulting city of San Diego maps. There are several districts of the nine that should be competitive. Analysts predict that a couple will produce conservative city council members, a couple will elect liberal council members, and the rest are toss-ups.

The proof, now, will be in the pudding. The 2012 elections will be the final arbiter. There has been no outcry, not from Democrats, Republicans, conservative groups or labor. The evaluation of most observers, partisan and otherwise, is that the districts properly reflect a commonality of interest and a numerical balance. The lines follow reasonably logical paths.

So where, I wonder, is the apology? The only reason to hold off is to wait for the election, preserving the opportunity to cry foul if results aren’t philosophically satisfactory. If the groups that were concerned think the maps are improperly drawn, they should speak before the election. None has.

It appears the commissioners behaved honorably. That deserves recognition and appreciation.

Several have claimed it is their involvement that turned the tide. No one wants to credit the commission. It is time to thank the San Diego redistricting commissioners for their work. That might involve eating a little crow, but sometimes, properly served, crow is only marginally distasteful.

Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

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