Commentary

02/01/2013  by Alexandra Bjerg

Video: Redistricting quirk leaves some unrepresented, others with two state senators

Have a complaint about state government you would like to take up with your state senator? Many Californians will be surprised to find voicing their complaint trickier than usual this year.

A quirk resulting from the 2011 redistricting process has left nearly 4 million Californians without an elected representative in the state’s upper legislative chamber for the next two years, while others are temporarily represented by two state senators.

This phenomenon, which uniquely affects the Senate, arises once every 10 years the legislative boundaries are redrawn. It’s a glitch that essentially can’t be avoided because of the Senate’s system of staggered elections.

Although new Senate districts were approved in 2011, only voters in odd-numbered Senate districts had the opportunity to elect a representative in 2012. Consequently, the new even-numbered district boundaries won’t go into effect until the 2014 election cycle.

As a result of some overlap between the new and old districts, communities in odd-numbered districts moved into even-numbered districts (“deferred areas”) will lack representation in the upper house of the Legislature. Voters in these areas will go six years without electing a State Senator. Conversely, communities in even-numbered districts redrawn into odd-numbered districts (“accelerated areas”) have double representation, having been given the pleasure of electing a Senator in both 2010 and 2012.

So who do voters lacking a senator contact for assistance?

The Senate Rules Committee has assigned a “caretaker” senator to provide constituent services to these deferred areas.

We talked with one such caretaker, Senator Alex Padilla (D- Pacoima) who has inherited more than 200,000 new constituents, about how the added responsibility affects him and his staff.

(See all the assignments here)

Categories: Government

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