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Last Chance for Asians to Join Redistricting Commission

New America Media, Commentary, Judy Chu Posted: Feb 09, 2010

Over the next week, ordinary California voters have an unprecedented opportunity to affect political elections in the state for the next 10 years. But as the days tick away, Californias Asian American community is in danger of having its voices shut out.

February 16 is the last day for applications to Californias new Citizens Redistricting Commission--a body that will have sweeping powers over the way state legislative and Board of Equalization district lines are drawn for the next 10 years. In other words, this commission of 14 ordinary Californians5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 independents or voters from other partieswill shape Californias political future.

Whats the big deal? Wellheres whats at stake. The district lines that are drawn could significantly affect election results for the next 10 years. In the past, states like Texas have redrawn the lines so that a majority of the residents in a single district hail from one party. As a result, in those districts there is no real competition in electionswhich ultimately decreases the power of individual voters.

In California, state legislative boundaries used to be drawn by lawmakers, but when voters passed Proposition 11 (the Voters FIRST Act) in the November 2008 general election, that responsibility transferred to the people. Unfortunately right now, there is a great danger that this commission will not be truly representative of the people in this state.

A truly representative redistricting commission is one that should look like California. In order to accurately reflect Californias voter demographics, it would mean that at least one of the 14 citizens redistricting commission members would be Asian American. But so far, applications do not come close to representing the diversity of Californias voters. More than 74 percent of the 7,681 registered voters who have applied are non-Hispanic whites. If nothing is done to change this, it could mean that no one from the Asian American community will be a member of this commission.

Asian American voices made a difference in the San Gabriel Valley. Prior to 1990, Asian American communities were divided up between three different Assembly districts, diminishing their ability to make a difference in any one district. Then, Asian Americans got involved in the redistricting process, and those communities were put into one district, greatly improving the ability for Asian Americans to make a difference in the political arena.

Having a greater voice in the decisions of America is critical in so many ways, and the consequences of being left out are devastating. During the 2000 Census, an estimated 1 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders were left out in Los Angeles County alonewhich ended up costing the community hundreds of millions of dollars in lost federal funding. Now, with less than 70 days before Census Day 2010 on April 1, organizations like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) are gearing up to ensure we do not see a repeat of the year 2000 undercount. With our communities facing some of the toughest times in decades, we cannot afford to lose precious federal funding for Medicaid, childcare, early child education, school lunch, ESL, adult education, and other vital services. By participating in efforts like redistricting and the census, Asian Americans have everything to gain.

Thats why in the next few days, we need your help to ensure full representation of Californias Asian American community on the Citizens Redistricting Committee. Its time for the Asian American community to make its voices heard. Before the February 16 deadline, its time to apply to be a part of the citizens redistricting commission and be a part of Californias political future.

Applications are available online at www.WeDrawtheLines.ca.gov. Dont miss this opportunity to make your voice heard!

Congresswoman Judy Chu represents California's 32nd District

Related Articles:

Asians Urged to Apply for Redistricting Commission




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