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L.A. County Appeals Ruling Upholding State Law That Undercuts Citizen Self-Governance

Posted on: 05/17/2018 00:00

The County of Los Angeles today filed an appeal seeking to stop a new state law from taking effect that would undercut the right of county residents to govern themselves.

The appeal follows a unanimous vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to take legal action to prevent implementation of SB 958. Under the new law, Los Angeles County would be one of only two counties in the state required to create a 14-person commission charged with re-drawing the five Supervisorial district boundaries after the U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years.

Voters in all other California counties enjoy a broad range of options regarding how to conduct supervisorial redistricting. The legislation was approved by the State Senate and Assembly in 2016 and signed into law by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.

The County filed suit in 2017 to protect the right of L.A. County voters to maintain local control over redistricting. Under the law, the commission must be in place by Dec. 31, 2020.

“There is no justification for the State to create a broad range of options for how to accomplish redistricting in other counties, but to single out Los Angeles County and take away the power of its electorate to decide for themselves the best method for redistricting,” said Laura Brill, a partner in Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP, which is representing the County. “Like the other counties in the state, the people of L.A. County must have the ability to decide how to govern themselves. Most State Legislators do not live in – or represent – Los Angeles County.’’

The commission’s membership would be based on political party registration, which creates a partisan office. The California Constitution provides that all county offices must be nonpartisan. 

Anyone who had registered to vote outside of L.A. County within the last five years or who had changed party affiliation within that same time frame could not serve on the commission.  As a result, important constituencies automatically would be excluded from the commission.

The County contends that the new law unfairly imposes an experimental system to select a citizen redistricting commission based on luck and chance, instead of proper public deliberation, on the citizens of Los Angeles County. By comparison, the last countywide apportionment, which was based on the 2010 Census, included extensive input from County voters and was never challenged in court.

Supporters of SB 958 pushed the measure through the state Legislature in Sacramento without holding any meetings in Los Angeles County and over the objections of the County. Also opposed to the measure at the time were the California State Association of Counties, the Urban Counties of California, the County of Riverside and the Los Angeles Times editorial board.


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