SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A citizens group on Friday filed a petition with the California Supreme Court, asking it to prepare for the "likely qualification" of a state Senate redistricting referendum.

More than 711,000 referendum signatures were submitted to counties on or before Nov. 15 and are now being verified, the group Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting said. It needs 504,760 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.

FAIR describes itself as a "citizens group aimed at holding the state's Citizens Redistricting Commission accountable for creating fair districts in California."

The group, made up of individuals, businesses, elected officials and community leaders, says it is concerned that a "well-intentioned process of drawing legislative districts has put Californians in danger of being misrepresented regardless of race, culture or political party."

The measure would block implementation of the commission's Senate maps unless and until voters approve them next November.

Voters authorized creation of the commission when they passed the Voters FIRST Act, or Proposition 11, on the state's November 2008 general election ballot.

The commission has 14 members; five who are Democrats, five who are Republicans and four who are neither. The panel was tasked with drawing both the state's new legislative and congressional maps.

In particular, FAIR argues that use of the commission's Senate maps would "effectively eviscerate" the right of referendum, which voters specifically added in Proposition 20.

The group's first request is for the state's high court to appoint a special master to advise it and then suspend operation of the in lieu filing process only for the 20 odd-numbered Senate districts that are up for election next year.

Suspension, it says, would not affect ballot access for candidates. The group argues it is merely a "little-used procedure" to allow all candidates, whether indigent or not, to reduce the amount of their filing fees. The full filing fee for the state Senate is $952.91.

FAIR's main request is that the Court be ready to implement Senate districts other than the redistricting commission's in time for candidates to file for office. The filing period starts Feb. 9.

The group has suggested two options that it believes could be implemented "swiftly" by the Court. They are to use the current odd-numbered 2011 Senate districts for 2012 only, or to "nest" the commission's unchallenged Assembly districts to make new Senate districts.

FAIR argues that the commission ignored a constitutional provision regarding nesting two Assembly districts into one Senate district when it adopted lines in August.

The current rotating chairman for the commission, Stan Forbes, told The Sacramento Bee on Friday that the group's petition is a "disservice to the public" and a "waste of taxpayer money" to fight.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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