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California is about to lose a seat in Congress. How it could shift the balance of power

California is about to lose a seat in Congress. How it could shift the balance of power

From the June 9 recap: Napa Valley news you may have missed today series
  • Updated

California's once-a-decade redrawing of congressional boundaries is underway, and the stakes are high with the state preparing to lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history.

The expected loss in congressional power would give California a delegation of 52 members in the House of Representatives, down from 53. That's a bigger delegation than any other state, but the decline means at least one incumbent won't be in office after the 2022 election.

The balance of power in Congress is also on the line, as states like New York, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania each face losing a seat, while Florida, Montana, Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina stand to gain a seat. Texas is gaining two.

That shift would make a net loss of three congressional seats from states President Joe Biden won in 2020, potentially giving an advantage to Republicans heading into next year's election.

Over the next several months, it will be up to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw the state's political boundaries for congressional, state Senate, state Assembly and State Board of Equalization districts in time for next year's election cycle.

"All Californians need to get involved so that we can ensure that these maps reflect what Californians want and need for their communities," said Commission Chair Isra Ahmed, of Santa Clara County.

Here's what you need to know about California's redistricting process.

Who draws the boundaries?

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission was established after California voters in 2008 approved the Voters First Act, also known as Proposition 11, as a way to create fairer district maps and avoid gerrymandering, the act of manipulating maps in favor of a political party. Before the independent commission was created, state legislators drew the maps.

The process occurs once every 10 years after the U.S. Census is conducted to account for population changes.

Are Democrats going to tilt the process?

The 14-member commission is made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four individuals with a different or no party affiliation.

Commissioners are required to make their meetings, hearings and debates public and must follow strict transparency and nonpartisan rules.

"The strongest tool that we have on our end to ensure that this process is not swayed one way or another ... is the transparency aspect of the commission's work," said Ahmed, who is not affiliated with either party. "Everything that we do is public, our meetings are public, all of our documents are public."

Where will California lose a congressional district?

Delays due to the coronavirus pandemic are causing the U.S. Census Bureau to release data later than expected. Until more population data is released in the next few months commissioners cannot start drawing maps.

Public meetings where commissioners will begin drawing maps will be open to the public, according to Ahmed.

Drafts of district maps are expected to be released in November or December of this year, the commission's timeline shows. Final maps are anticipated to be sent to the Secretary of State between December 2021 and February 2022.

Los Angeles County, as well as counties in Northern and Coastal California, lost residents, according to figures from the California Department of Finance.

How can I get involved with the redistricting process?

Christian Arana, vice president of policy at the Latino Community Foundation, said it's critical for all Californians to participate in the process. He added that Latino communities, who make up about 40% of the state population, should also participate.

"Too often, Latinos either have not been a part of this process or just don't even know about it," Arana said. "We need to make sure that all of our voices are heard."

Those who are interested in attending meetings or voicing their input can find a list of future meetings here. Residents are also invited to submit descriptions of their communities here.

Napa's Rainbow Action Network and First 5 Napa Network just rolled out a series of new Rainbow Little Libraries. They were created to share diverse, anti-racist and LGBTQ-inclusive messages with young readers, families and supporters.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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