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Bingo and the Redistricting Commission

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winnowing the pool of hopefuls from more than 30-thouand to just 36 has been complex.  But the method for selecting the first eight members was simple - and low-tech.

"As you can see we have a bingo cage.  We have three sets of bingo balls, for each.  We're going to have three separate drawings."

State Auditor Elaine Howle explained to a crowd of reporters and interested citizens how the random selection would work.  Each candidate was assigned a number, and Howle chose numbered bingo balls from a gold metal cage:

"I'm going to spin the cage a little bit - mix it up a little bit and we'll see who our first commissioner is……fade nats down.

Three Democrats, three Republicans and two from neither of the two major parties were chosen.  One of them was Stan Forbes, who co-owns the Avid Reader bookstore in Sacramento:

"I feel very privileged and I'm just very excited."

Forbes is a non-partisan voter.  He says he's hoping non-gerrymandered districts will encourage more moderate people to run for office.  He says the fact that lawmakers are no longer drawing their own political map will have other added benefits:

"The ratings of the legislature are quite low and I think by having the public be in charge of drawing the lines it will improve the confidence that the public will have that the legislature really is representing them and not themselves."

The initial eight people chosen represent both northern and southern California. They identify themselves as Asian, white, Hispanic or Latino, and African American. They'll choose the remaining six members of the commission.  There had been concerns about whether the panel would be diverse enough.  Audior Elaine Howle says she's not worried about that:

"I think these eight commissioners will have to take that into consideration when they ultimately select those remaining six that this commission is as diverse as possible."

Voters created the commission in 2008 when they passed prop. 11. At that point the members' responsibilities included drawing the lines for legislative and board of equalization districts.  But this month voters expanded their duties to include Congressional districts, too.  

The first eight members are expected to meet before the end of the month.  The commission has until August to finish its work.

Here's a short video of  State Auditor Elaine Howle making the first selection

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