December 28, 2011

Special hearing set for redistricting writ petition

The Supreme Court has scheduled a special January 10 oral argument for the Redistricting writ petition. It’s been only 19 days since the court agreed to decide the petition and set an “extremely expedited briefing schedule” that will allow “oral argument in this matter as early as the first two weeks in January 2012, and the filing of an opinion in this matter as early as the end of January 2012.”

Coincidentally (or likely not), January 10 is the deadline for the counties to complete a random sampling of the 709,013 signatures submitted to qualify a referendum on the State Senate district map that is the subject of the writ petition. At that point the court may better know if the referendum is “likely to qualify,” which is the new constitutional standard for asking the Supreme Court to stay implementation of a redistricting map.

So, how is the random sampling going? The most recent report, with results through December 21, shows a higher percentage of valid signatures than on the day the Supreme Court agreed to hear the writ petition, but it’s still a smaller percentage than needed to qualify the referendum without having to verify every signature.

For those of you playing at home (and assuming I’ve done the math correctly): if the random sample shows 78.311 percent valid signatures, the referendum qualifies without further verification; if less than 67.632 percent of the sampled signatures are valid, the referendum fails without more; anything in between requires all 709,013 signatures to be verified. More numbers: 71.191 percent of the total signatures must be valid to reach the minimum 504,760 signatures necessary to qualify the referendum; as of December 21, 74.21 percent of the sampled signatures are valid, up from just under 70 percent 19 days ago. Los Angeles County — with by far the most signatures (209,163) of any county — has yet to report the results of its random sampling.

As one veteran political reporter wrote, “Justices would be wise to bring their calculators into the courtroom.”

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