September 17, 2011

Redistricting writ petition filed in Supreme Court

We’ve noted how the Supreme Court could get involved in the politically-charged redistriciting process, either by deciding a writ petition challenging newly drawn district maps — a petition over which the court has original and exclusive jurisdiction — or by possibly staying implementation of the maps if a referendum is likely to qualify for the ballot and, if the referendum succeeds, appointing masters to draw new maps. (See here and here.) There is action on both fronts.

A writ petition was filed yesterday, by what the Sacramento Bee is describing as “a Republican Party-backed group,” to challenge the State Senate district map. The petition was presumably filed electronically, as the Supreme Court has mandated, and is available at this web page on the court’s website. The case is Vandermost v. Bowen (Citizens Redistricting Commission).

The court promised to fast track redistricting petitions, but it’s hard to tell if the court is doing so with this filing. According to the online docket (we haven’t seen the court’s order itself), the court said the respondent and real party in interest can file preliminary oppositions within 10 days or file by October 10 a single consolidated “informal opposition” that addresses any or all redistricting petitions filed by the September 29 deadline. But the applicable rule already gives respondents and real parties in interest 10 days to file preliminary oppositions. The “informal opposition” deadline is puzzling. The rule doesn’t mention such a document and it’s unclear what the difference is between that and a preliminary opposition.

The same group that filed the writ petition yesterday is also trying to gather the over 500,000 petition signatures necessary to challenge the Senate-district map by referendum. There are conlficting reports on how that’s going. The Sacramento Bee article reports an active and well-funded signature-gathering organization, but Roll Call says the push to challenge the maps “appears to have lost momentum.”

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