CA: Columbia Law Plans Mapped and Reviewed

Columbia Law School announced last week that they were releasing state-by-state redistricting plans that would include Non-Partisan, Legally Defensible Maps That States Can Use.  These maps were released and Redistricting Partners dove right in to see how useful or legally defensible they were.

The results were a mixed bag.  Some districts showed interesting choices of how to pair communities of interest, and some addressed real problems already being discussed at commission hearings.  However there were significant data shortcomings – mirroring some concerns raised the last time a group outside of California tried to draw our districts.

visit http://redistrictingpartners.c… to see the maps.

Ethnic Concerns

The greatest concern with the Columbia Plan is the lack of sophistication when dealing with Latino VRA concerns.  Instead of using the Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) figures they used the more readily available 18+ Latino numbers.  This, however, artificially inflates the eligible voter population within districts that require preclearance or could be the subject of lawsuits.  In fact, the Department of Justice has already released a federal register stating that they will consider a district to have retrogressed if they fail to maintain the same minority percentage of overall population, 18+ population, and CVAP.

The Columbia Law media release boasted 14 majority minority seats under their plan.  In fact, they have 17 districts with more than 50% overall Latino population, but looking at CVAP the number plummets to 3 with an additional two more within the margin of error.[1]

While the Latino concern is a significant flaw, the Columbia Plan did reconnect communities that had been divided in previous decades and create a single majority-minority African American Congressional seat in Los Angeles.  This could be a double-edged sword as creating this seat could cause another African American held seat to move into more Latino territory.

Incumbent Displacement

In this plan 18 incumbents are paired in districts creating 9 newly vacant seats.  Without residency restrictions these members are portable, but the larger question for them is finding a nearby vacant district with an appealing partisan advantage.  Incumbent Republicans Lungren, Gallegly, Calvert and Hunter find themselves in seats with a new Democratic majority, while Loretta Sanchez finds herself in a Republican seat.

In the attached data table the incumbent who lives within the district is listed, but an “ALT” field shows the likely member of Congress who will move into this district.  This is done only in cases where the member has been moved out of a majority of their current district and that district is now vacant.

County / City Choices

While it is inevitable that the final plan will include city and county splits, this plan seems to avoid splits as long as possible, resulting in fewer splits.  However, when splits are made they are horrific.  Long Beach is split into three parts (it is less than one district in population).  The Ventura County border is crossed in three districts.  There are a few seats that include multiple districts in the area of LA, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino.  Because of the unavoidable population patterns, a line drawer could chose to make a nice plan with a couple really ugly districts, or make all districts a tiny bit ugly and avoid any major violations of the Prop11 and Prop 20 principles.  This plan chose the former, creating a few districts that do not pass the smell test.


The ability to understand these maps is slightly undercut by the sometimes random numbering.  This, however, could give us practice before the commission plan is revealed as they could number in a completely different fashion.  For these maps and district tables it is best to think of the incumbent or cities in the plan, not the district number.

Maps and Data

The first set of maps are overviews of each region of the state.  The data tables go through the demographics and political data for each district.

to view the maps visit: http://redistrictingpartners.c…

One thought on “CA: Columbia Law Plans Mapped and Reviewed”

  1. Some are good and some are bad.

    A bad idea, for instance, is connecting the East Bay and Marin County in CD-6. I do not believe those communities have much in common.

    Another bad idea is CD-16, which connects San Jose and Santa Cruz. Again, I don’t believe those constitute communities in common.

    CD-40 is kind of weird too.

    On the good side, I really like their CD-51 which basically connects all the exurban communities in SoCal. I don’t think anybody on SSP has thought of connecting those communities that way. That’s very clever, and it makes CD-44 better by reducing it just to Riverside exurbs.

    I also like CD-25. That’s very well drawn.

    Edit: I just saw CD-17, which goes from San Jose to San Benito straight into Central Valley. That look pretty terrible.

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