- Submitter Name: Sara Blicharz
- How Submitter Knows Applicant: See attached form.
- Submitted on: 12/08/2010
Member of California’s Citizen Redistricting Commission:
I am writing to respond to the public comment submitted by Sara Blicharz oppositing my selection to the Redistricting Commission. She raises two concerns that she believes disqualify me from service.
1. That participation in a prior redistricting lawsuit presents a conflict of interest because commissioners need to be neutral and objective regarding redistricting.
2. That I am ‘political’ on contentious issues, including my service on the Presidential Education Transition Team, and that my public stand on social issues impedes my ability to be fair and follow redistricting law as established by the voters of California, Congress and the United States Supreme Court.
Potential conflict of interest because of prior participation in a redistricting lawsuit.
I strongly disagree that my prior participation in a redistricting case creates a conflict of interest. In fact, I believe that the litigation at issue here indicates the opposite quality and demonstrates my fairness and adherence to the principles of redistricting and the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit involved a Democratic Congressional district; the fact that I was a registered Democratic did not keep me or other members of the legal team from moving forward with the case. We believed that the district had been drawn unlawfully by the state legislature in order to protect an incumbent Congressman, in this case a Democrat. Contrary to Ms. Blicharz’s concerns, the litigation was meant precisely to enforce the neutral and objective application of the principles of redistricting and the Voting Rights Act. Our new Redistricting Commissioners are not mandated to be neutral when it comes to the application of the Voting Rights Act and other core redistricting principles – such as compactness and protecting communities of interest. The opposite is true. Proposition 11 mandates the criteria to be followed when drawing districts and that is precisely what I would do – follow the law as set out by Proposition 11.
The author of the public comment believes that my system of beliefs should keep me from serving on the Commission. However, the authors of Proposition11 and the voters created a system that intentionally selects commissioners by their affiliation to political parties. I am in the registered Democratic pool, thus it is not surprising that I most often take positions that are shared by many members of the Democratic Party. And, as a lawyer, my starting point for analyzing an issue and taking a position is most often the U.S. Constitution, particularly its guarantee of Equal Protection and Due Process. I am sure that members of the Commission, almost by definition, will hold differing beliefs and viewpoints. In spite of their differences on social and other issues, what matters is that the commissioners follow redistricting law and that they have the patience, expertise and will to undertake this important assignment. The rules for voting on the Commission were carefully designed to strive for consensus and to achieve balance. As such, no one member on the Commission, or even groups of members, can derail the process enacted by the voters in Proposition 11.
Ms. Blicharz asks that other qualified candidates in the pool who are less ‘political’ be selected. Because of the intense work undertaken by the Selection Panel the remaining candidates are all qualified. It’s important to remember, however, that Proposition 11 calls for commissioners to have redistricting experience and knowledge of the Voting Rights Act in addition to other qualifications. This is not sidenote, it is a central qualification. It is this precise experience that I can bring to Commission that others cannot. Whatever maps the Commission draws will be subjected to intense scrutiny, legal and otherwise. It is essential that the Commission get it right.
Another distinction from the other candidates is my residence in Los Angeles. Even though I am a new resident of the city of Los Angeles, this is now my home and I believe that it is important for the Commission to have the participation of Los Angeles, the largest city in the state. As it stands, there are no other residents from the city of Los Angeles in the pool.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is nothing to indicate that other candidates are ‘less political’ than I am. They may not be public about their views, but they may still have closely held political beliefs. The Selection Panel set up an exhaustive process to ensure that in spite of everyone’s differing views, potential commissioners would be fair. If there still remain doubts about my impartiality and ability to be fair, please take the time to read my letters of recommendation that come from a broad range of the political spectrum and the different communities that make up California. They all make one similar point, that I am a consensus builder, fair, and I work hard to achieve whatever task if put in front of me.