On Tue, Mar 16, 2021 at 12:17 PM Angelo Ancheta wrote:



I am writing to flag an issue that arises in the context of the Commission’s hiring of its Voting Rights Act and Litigation counsel but has broader implications for the CRC’s work:  the consideration of political party-related data and information. 

As you know, the Voters First Act contains specific prohibitions on favoring or discriminating against political parties, incumbents, and candidates for office, as well as on considering communities of interest on the basis of party, incumbency, or candidacy. The 2010 CRC took a cautious approach in complying with these prohibitions, and, as a matter of policy, imposed a broader prohibition on the consideration of all party-, incumbent- and candidate-related data in its fact finding and line drawing. While this approach has advantages in self-policing the CRC’s work and helping insulate the CRC from criticisms of partisanship or favoritism, it also limits the data that may be necessary to perform a thorough analysis of past electoral patterns that are needed for VRA compliance.

Because party affiliation often correlates with minority-group voting patterns, there can be many instances where party-related information may be highly relevant to racial polarization analyses, and where the advocacy of minority interests may also have partisan implications.  For example, the creation of a majority-minority district to comply with section 2 of the VRA can lead to partisan gains (or losses) in that district and in adjoining districts.  Moreover, state and federal litigation that advances partisan interests can be framed through the lens of minority vote dilution. I would argue that a number of cases in the 2011 and earlier redistricting cycles, including those in California, employed VRA claims to help advance partisan interests.

Given these considerations, I offer two suggestions:  (1) include a line of questioning for both the VRA Counsel and Litigation Counsel candidates that queries how the counsel (and any experts retained by them) might address political party data in complying with the VRA and other redistricting criteria, as well as in defending against potential litigation; and (2) calendar for future CRC discussion the topic of how the Commission will more generally consider -- if at all -- party-related data in its information gathering and line drawing.

This an area where the Commission should move cautiously, but where it need not impose upon itself the same restrictions as the 2010 CRC.

Thank you for your consideration.

Angelo Ancheta
Member, 2010 California Citizens Redistricting Commission
San Francisco