California’s new electoral lines might not be drawn until early next year, several months later than originally scheduled, all due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the California Redistricting Commission decided to ask the California Supreme Court for two extra weeks to submit the final Congressional and state legislative maps.
If the request is granted, the commission would have until Jan 14, 2021, to finalize the new district lines.
All 14 commissioners voted in favor of the motion to request the extra two weeks.
“[The] vote was the result of countless hours of deliberation and public input on the deadline the commission would pursue with the California Supreme Court to submit final maps,” Commission Chair Russell Yee said in a statement.
If the state Supreme Court turns down the commission’s request, final district lines will have to be submitted by Dec. 31.
Originally, the commission was scheduled to complete the process by Aug. 15, and the primary election would have been held on March 8, 2020.
But the pandemic delayed the census results, which were revealed in April. Last year, the state Supreme Court already moved the deadline back from August to the end of the year.
The final state data that the Commission needs regarding the incarcerated population is expected to be delivered in late September, meaning the commission cannot start drafting maps until then.
The driving force behind the move to request an extension was the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The commissioners were concerned with the potential for less public input because of the season.
“We listened to community members who expressed concern over lower participation rates during the winter holidays, as well as election officials concerned about the deadline’s impact on the 2022 elections,” Yee said.
Notably, though, the commissioners did not commit to completely halting all meetings during the two-week stretch to finish out 2021.
That decision was puzzling to Matt Rexroad, chief counsel for redistricting firm Redistricting Insights.
“I think it doesn’t make any sense at all,” Rexroad said. “Government bodies and boards generally shut down during the final two weeks of December. That’s pretty common. I think it would be incredibly unfortunate if the commission got a two-week extension and then didn’t make that a dead period where people could then go do that. If the argument is that we need the extension so people don’t have to participate over the holidays, then don’t have any meetings over the holidays.”
With California’s primary currently scheduled for Jun 7, 2020, the extension request may push that date back even further.
The state legislature has the ability to move the primary, and depending on when the commission submits the final electoral lines, the primary could potentially be pushed into July.
“There were a couple commissioners that were very firm about the idea of not moving the primary beyond June,” Rexroad said.
“That was one of their considerations, and a Jan. 14 deadline kind of puts them at an uncertain period to whether they would want to delay the primary a little bit more.”