IRVINE, CALIF.—Now that it seems a certainty Republicans will not raise the money needed for a petition drive that would have stopped a redistricting plan in California that endangers as many as six GOP House members, is the last hope of thwarting that plan a lawsuit that invokes the Voting Rights Act?
This was a question posed increasingly on Saturday, as conservatives from throughout California gathered here for the Western Conservative Political Action Conference. More than a few activists arriving at the Hyatt Regency Hotel grumbled that although a group known as FAIR (Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting) raised a substantial amount of funds needed for a petition drive to put the state senate redistricting plan (which analysts say reduces current GOP ranks in the senate from the present 15 to 11) in the hands of the state supreme court for a chance at a more favorable outcome, the group raised nowhere near the amount needed for a similar drive that could well have stopped the just-as-hostile congressional redistricting.
“This doesn’t make sense,” Lew Uhler, head of the Roseville (Calif.)-based National Tax Limitation Committee, told HUMAN EVENTS. “Doesn’t the same failure in the newly drawn senate lines that is being attacked by the petition drive also apply to the congressional district lines?”
Apparently not—or at least, not where incumbent GOP House members who aren’t affected by the plan are concerned. Numerous sources we spoke to said that because so many of the present 19 Republican House members received more political safe districts than those who were put in danger, there was no effort among the delegation to raise money for FAIR’s petition drive as there obviously was by the embattled state senators.
“In contrast to our Republican state senators, some of our Republican House delegation were selfish,” said Jon Fleischman, editor of the much-read Flash Report, a bible for California political pundits and pols.
The name of House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who ended up with a far more Republican district, was frequently cited as one of the chief naysayers of an effort to upend the plan, which, along with the state senate and assembly district plans, was sculpted by a 12-member citizens commission earlier this year. Had petitions with 514,000 signatures been certified, as was the case with the state senate plan, the state supreme court would have then named a special master to craft an alternate redistricting plan, and voters would have chosen between the master’s plan and the commission’s in a statewide referendum.
Fleischman’s view that some California GOP House members were only looking out for No. 1 was strongly seconded by state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R.-Orange County), who told HUMAN EVENTS: “It’s a sad state of affairs when incumbents look out for themselves. When it comes to redistricting, voters like to see us do what is best for our state and country, not for individual incumbents.”
So Now It’s Up to the Voting Rights Act
As a last-ditch effort to stop the commission-drawn U.S. House plan, former Rep. George Radanovich (R.-Calif.) and four others, including leaders of the state’s black and Latino community, filed a lawsuit last week charging that its lines were in violation of the state constitution and the U.S. Voting Rights Act, which enforces the 15th Amendment to the Constitution by guaranteeing majority districts for minorities.
The suit specifically charges that three Los Angeles districts were drawn to protect three incumbents and that the citizens commission failed to comply with the Voting Rights Act to ensure that one or two of those districts had a majority of African-American voters.
The state supreme court is likely to hear the suit before the end of the year and, if the jurists accept its claims, it will stay the commission-drawn plan and appoint a special master to draw new lines. Similar legal assaults in 1970 and ’90 led to new districts being drawn by a court-named special master.
As one cynical conservative told HUMAN EVENTS, “I hate to make a case for anything based on the Voting Rights Act, because it’s really just a quota system in redistricting. But if it can save some of the six Republican congressmen going down in California, hey, I’ll take it.”