Bonta Bill Promoting Fairer Local Redistricting Signed by Governor Newsom

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

AB 849 Reforms Redistricting Laws to Increase Transparency and Public Engagement

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) calls today’s signing of AB 849 by Governor Gavin Newsom a victory for open, accessible government in California.

“AB 849 will reform California’s local redistricting laws to improve transparency and public engagement. AB 849 demonstrates our state’s commitment that representative and inclusive democracy matters at all levels of government, including city and county,” said Bonta. “Redistricting is so important to local democracy. How district boundaries for county supervisor or city council seats are drawn can help determine, for the next decade, whether a community will be fairly represented at their closest levels of government. I thank Governor Newsom for signing AB 849 into law.”

AB 849, the Fair And Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivision Act, also known as the FAIR MAPS Act, reforms  the local redistricting process to be fairer to California’s diverse communities, more transparent, better organized, and more consistently applied across all local governments. Unlike redistricting at the state level, there are very few requirements currently on cities and counties to ensure the process is fair and transparent and that the public, especially underrepresented communities, are engaged in the process.

AB 849 would specifically:

  • Strengthen the criteria for city and county redistricting and minimize the possibility of gerrymandering by prioritizing that neighborhoods and communities should remain intact;
  • Bring new voices into the redistricting process, by requiring public engagement that includes engaging non-English-speaking communities that are otherwise often overlooked;
  • Improve transparency by requiring local governments publish draft maps online for 7 days before they can be adopted; and
  • Adopt logical redistricting deadlines that expand opportunities for public participation and set up consistent and fair remedies for when those deadlines are missed.

“California should end partisan and racially discriminatory gerrymandering at every level of government,” said Rey López-Calderón, executive director of California Common Cause, a lead sponsor of the bill. “We started with our state legislative and congressional districts a decade ago, and the time has come to draw fair maps in every city and county across the state.”

"AB 849 creates fair criteria for local redistricting - lighting the path for local line-drawing the way California set the gold standard for state elections,” said Dora Rose, Deputy Director for the League of Women Voters of California “The Fair Maps Act ensures that our diverse communities have a voice in local government.”

“California laws for local redistricting are obsolete and undermine the goal of fair representation in terms of public hearing requirements, timing and redistricting criteria,” said Bonta. “It’s critical that the 2021 redistricting cycle promotes and doesn’t impede our goal of fair representation for all of California’s diverse communities.”

“Partisan and racially discriminatory gerrymandering has silenced and excluded vulnerable communities for centuries,” said Hussam Ayloush, CEO of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA). “Passage of the FAIR MAPS Act will establish stronger procedures and standards for city and county redistricting, enabling a more representative government for all Californians that will lift the voices of those who have struggled to be heard for too long. We thank Governor Newsom for signing this critical bill into law.”

"AB 849 doesn't just mandate local redistricting criteria that should protect California communities that have historically been left out of power. It also mandates public participation and public outreach that will hopefully give those communities a voice in the process and a seat at the table," said Jonathan Stein, a voting rights attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus.  

“AB 849 is about further increasing civic participation and elevating the voices of our community. Our redistricting process sets the example many states should follow, I am glad Governor Newsom has signed AB 849 into law,” said Samuel Molina, CA State Director, Mi Familia Vota.

“We are thrilled that with the passing of AB 849, we will continue our state’s fundamental commitment to a fair, representative, and inclusive democracy at all levels of government. This will bring new voices into the redistricting process, by requiring robust public engagement that expressly includes, for the first time, engaging non-English-speaking communities that are otherwise all-too-often overlooked,” said

AB 849 is co-authored by Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Kevin Mullin (D- San Mateo) and Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys).

AB 849 is a 2019 California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Priority Bill and is supported by the following groups: California Common Cause, California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), League of Women Voters of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice CA, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDFEF), Mi Familia Vota, Council on American Islamic Relations-California, Advancement Project California, and Represent.Us.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader.