Will Redistricting Be a Bloodbath for Democrats?

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A ballot initiative in 2008 created the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission that would be responsible for drawing up state legislative district lines. The commission would require nine votes to enact a plan, three each from Republicans, Democrats and third parties.

On Tuesday, Californians passed Proposition 20, which would expand the commission's task to include congressional district boundaries.

The commission, the first of its kind, would test how such a process works. But not everyone agrees that commissions are less partisan than state legislatures.

"The problem is no one has come up with the perfect way," Storey said. "Sometimes, they're called independent commissions, but they're not necessarily independent commissions. But they may actually be just as partisan as legislatures. And, in fact, they are likely to go to legislation and they are likely to end up losing redistricting plans."

Others say the potential for abuse is greater when members of state legislatures, with clearly vested political ideologies, are involved.

"Redistricting is, for better or for worse, a lot of political jousting," said Erika L. Wood, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. "Because those state legislatures hold so much control and because this is done in back rooms, if Republicans are in control they will draw maps that they think will benefit them in the next few years.

"There's always a lot of drama that happens with this," she added. "I've heard people call it a bloodbath."

The redistricting process in Texas in 2003 ended up embroiled in controversy and court delays that escalated all the way to the Supreme Court.

Former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the House majority leader at the time, came under fire for his role in crafting a plan that Democrats charged was a way to ensure that Republicans would continue to stay in power in Washington.

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