California Citizens Redistricting Commission

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Essay Guidance

As we move into the Supplemental Application Phase, you may have a few questions while filing out your application. The information below is designed to address questions that you may have prior to filling out the Supplemental Application.

How can I demonstrate that I qualify to serve on the Citizens Redistricting Commission?

The Voters FIRST Act (Act) requires the members of the Citizens Redistricting Commission (Commission) to be selected based on three key qualifications: their analytical skills, their ability to be impartial, and their appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography.

What types of analytical skills do I need to have to be qualified to serve?

You do not need to have prior experience with the redistricting process to serve on the commission, but you do need to be willing to roll up your sleeves and delve into some fairly complex material. Your work will ultimately result in the redrawing of the political boundaries of the California Assembly, Senate and State Board of Equalization Districts — using software designed just for this purpose. So, you will need to be comfortable working with computers, reading maps, applying the various legal concepts that apply to redistricting, and working with numbers and complex data. Although there is no exact set of specific analytical skills that every commissioner must have, here is a list of the general tasks commissioners must be able to perform along with an illustrative list of skills that would be helpful to have:

  • You will need to gather (with the help of your staff) and understand information related to the redistricting process. Some of the skills you will need include the ability to use computers, read and understand dense and technical written materials such as maps and statistical information; participate effectively in public hearings by listening carefully and critically to the testimony of witnesses; and formulate concise questions that will elicit relevant information.
  • You will need to evaluate the validity and significance of information and participate in making sound decisions about the proper placement of communities in districts. To do this, it will be helpful to have basic math skills, familiarity with using computers and spreadsheet programs, mapping websites or programs, or word processing programs.
  • You will need to assess the credibility of information provided by staff, consultants, and members of the public, distinguish facts from opinions, distinguish relevant facts from irrelevant facts, and assess the relative strengths of competing arguments.
  • You will need to have the ability to resolve complex problems, particularly those involving factual ambiguities that may arise when all of the relevant facts are not apparent or when there are conflicting claims about the facts.
  • As a commissioner, you will need to apply the appropriate legal standards to the redistricting process. To do this, you must have the ability to understand the legal principles that govern redistricting as communicated to you through written materials and advice provided by the commission’s legal counsel. You must also be willing to apply the and adhere to the proper legal standards in your redistricting decisions.
  • As a commissioner, you will need to work effectively as a member of a group to promote redistricting decisions that are factually and legally defensible and that the commission can agree upon. This is where effective communication skills, including, but not limited to, basic writing skills, and the ability to interact effectively with other commissioners to build consensus on proposed decisions through reasoned discussion and negotiation will be critical skills.

What are some of the ways I can demonstrate my analytical skills to the Applicant Review Panel?

There are many ways you can demonstrate that you possess relevant analytical skills. During the Supplemental Application phase, you will have the opportunity to provide written essays, along with letters of recommendation. If you are selected to proceed to the interview phase, you will be called for an interview where you may provide further information about your skills and qualifications to serve. To demonstrate that you possess the relevant analytical skills, you can describe how you acquired and have applied those skills in your occupational, academic, volunteer, or other life experiences, such as:

  • Describing experiences where you have compiled information from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to, statistical reports, expert opinions, and members of the public to develop an understanding of an issue or problem;
  • Describing experiences where you have assessed the value of information received from various sources to determine how much weight should be given to certain information versus other information when making a decision concerning an issue;
  • Describing experiences where you have received expert advice, particularly of a legal nature, and applied that advice to decisions;
  • Describing experiences where you have participated in group decision-making as a member of a commission, board, grand jury, task force, or other collection of individuals whose mission was to produce a report, plan, or other work product addressing some issue or problem.

Remember, these experiences do not need to be related to redistricting or even to the political process. The important thing is your willingness and your ability to bring keen analytical skills to this important process.

What does it mean for a member of the Commission to be impartial?

  • Even though you may have participated in political causes and may have strong political views, you would need to set aside your personal views if selected to serve on the commission.
  • You are able to evaluate information with an open mind, taking into account the viewpoints of others.
  • If selected to serve on the commission, you would make sound decisions regarding redistricting in a way that sets aside your personal interests.
  • If selected to serve on the commission, you would make redistricting decisions in a way that sets aside your own personal views regarding any candidates, political parties, or social or political causes.

I believe I would be an impartial commissioner. How can I demonstrate my ability to be impartial to the Applicant Review Panel?

  • By showing that you do not have personal, family, financial relationships, commitments, or aspirations that a reasonable person would consider likely to improperly influence someone making a redistricting commission.
  • By establishing that you have occupational, academic, volunteer, or other experiences that would demonstrate your ability to set aside your personal interests, political opinions, and group allegiances to achieve a broad objective.

What does it mean for an applicant to have an appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography?

  • It means you understand that California’s population consists of individuals who share certain demographic characteristics that may reflect their preferences concerning political representation, including, but not limited to, such characteristics as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status.
  • It means you understand that the people of California reside in many different localities with distinct geographic characteristics that may reflect the preferences of residents concerning their political representation.
  • It means you recognize that California benefits by having effective participation in the electoral process by persons of all demographic characteristics and residing in all geographic locations, including, but not limited to, participation by those persons who in the past, as a consequence of sharing certain demographic characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, have had less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the electoral process.

What are some of the ways I can demonstrate to the Applicant Review Panel that I have an appreciation for California’s diversity?

There are many ways you can demonstrate your appreciation for California’s diverse demographics and geography. The following are some, but not all, of the ways you can demonstrate your appreciation for California’s rich diversity:

  • Having worked on a project that involved or affected Californians having differing backgrounds or living in different areas or having different interests;
  • Being able to achieve a result that took varying interests into account and that achieved a result that was acceptable to these Californians;
  • Having studied the voting behavior of Californians in various areas of the state for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of the electoral process;
  • Having traveled throughout California and meeting with people having different backgrounds, to recruit them for employment or some other endeavor, or to build consensus on some issue or idea

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