The California Citizens Redistricting Commission: Fair Maps, Voting Rights, and Diversity

The Schwarzenegger Institute is excited to announce the release of its newest policy report that closely examines the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The first California Citizens Redistricting Commission drew the lines from 2012 to 2020. The second California Citizens Commission is nearing the end of its process of being selected. Eight commissioners were randomly chosen on July 2, and these 8 will pick the final 6 commissioners. The new Commission’s first meeting is Tuesday, July 21, 2020.

Schwarzenegger Institute Academic Director Dr. Christian Grose partnered with Dr. Jason Casellas (University of Houston) and Dr. Michael Minta (University of Minnesota) to analyze the levels of diversity in the 2020 Redistricting Commission process; examine representation in the California Legislature and the congressional delegation both pre- and post-creation of the commission; and make several conclusions regarding how Redistricting Commissions can enhance racial and ethnic diversity. The report examines the Commission selection process so far, and finds that the diversity of the applicant pool increased in the selection of 60 finalists, but decreased when the state legislature struck names of applicants from the pool. The California Redistricting Commission has been praised as a model of redistricting in terms of creating fair maps that do not consider partisanship or incumbency protection. In addition to fair maps on these dimensions, the report also finds that the first California redistricting commission maps used from 2012 to 2020 did not simply result in fair maps by party, but it also led to levels of racial and ethnic diversity in the state legislature and Congress never seen in the history of California. Drawing maps by Commission led to greater diversity than maps drawn by the legislature in the past. Casellas, Minta, and Grose then used this research to make several policy recommendations on how the Commission can engage with communities of interest, promote diversity, and follow the guidelines set forth in state law so that Californians are included and represented in the redistricting process and future elections.


• We examine racial and ethnic diversity in the California Citizens Redistricting Process.

• In 2020, from the completed application stage to the selection of 60 finalists for the commission, the Asian-American applicant proportion increased by 14.2 percentage points; and the Latino/a applicant proportion increased by 9.9 percentage points.  Prior to this, though, there were lower proportions of Asian-American and Latino/a applicants relative to the California voting-eligible population and state population.

• California legislative leaders’ ability to strike 24 of the 60 finalists led to a numerical decline in Latino/a finalists. Had the legislature not struck 7 of 14 Latino/a finalists, the random draw choosing the first eight commissioners would likely have resulted in at least 1, if not more, Latino/a commissioners among the first 8.

• 62.5% of the first eight chosen identify as people of color. However, no Latino/a Californians were chosen among the first eight commissioners.  The new partially-formed commission has three African-American members, a historic high for a California redistricting commission; two Asian-American members; and three white members. There are four women and four men in the first eight. Two commissioners also identify as LGBTQ.

• The first eight commissioners are required by law to consider diversity imbalances in selecting the final six commissioners. The Commission will add 6 final members by August 15, and has an opportunity and is likely to appoint Latino/a commissioners to the final 14.

• The Voters First Act establishing the Commission requires diversity as a consideration in drawing the maps. We analyze the California state legislature and congressional delegation under the commission-drawn map used from 2012 to 2020. We also evaluate the diversity of legislators elected under the legislative-drawn map from a decade prior. The commission-drawn map had greater racial and ethnic diversity among legislators.

• The Commission map doubled the percentage of Latino/a and Asian-American members of the U.S. House delegation from California over the last decade’s legislative-drawn map.

• The Commission state legislative maps increased the percentage of Latino/a, African-American, Asian-American state legislators over the last decade’s legislative-drawn map.


1. Choose the next 6 commissioners carefully, and address demographic imbalances, including the absence of Latino/a commissioners. In particular, we strongly recommend appointing multiple Latino/a commissioners.

2. Greater transparency in the legislative striking of applicants is needed and encouraged. Or consider removing the legislative strikes provision from the process in subsequent commission appointments.

3. The selection of Redistricting Commissioners could be block randomized by the racial and ethnic population as well as block randomized by party.

4. Redistricting Commissions must carefully evaluate voting rights, communities of interest, and the ability to elect candidates of choice in drawing legislative lines for 2022.

5. The Commission must seek public comment and engage in outreach.

6. The state must encourage a greater diversity of applications when hiring consultants responsible for generating enthusiasm among the state’s populace to apply to the commission.   

7. Use traditional redistricting principles such as drawing lines around communities of interest