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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

California uses an independent commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts; the first 8 commissioners for the 2020 cycle were chosen on July 2, 2020, and the remaining 6 commissioners were chosen on Aug. 7, 2020. For the 2020 cycle, redistricting deadlines were extended by the state Supreme Court in light of the delay in receiving Census data.  On Dec. 26, 2021, the commission voted unanimously to approve final state legislative and congressional maps.

In the 2010 cycle, the independent commission voted on Aug. 15, 2011 (12-2 for congress, 13-1 for state legislature) to approve final legislative and congressional maps; the maps were precleared on Jan. 17, 2012.  State and federal lawsuits challenging the congressional and state Senate maps, and a state challenge to the composition of the commission itself, were rejected.


Seats: (projected)


Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:

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The Latest Updates

Oct 30, 2022
Yahoo News: "LA City Council hopes to change redistricting process before 2024"
Feb 14, 2022
The forty-five day window to challenge California's new congressional or legislative maps has expired. No lawsuits were filed, the maps will now be in place until 2031.
Dec 27, 2021
California Citizens Redistricting Commission delivered state congressional and legislative maps to California Secretary of State.
Dec 20, 2021
The California Citizen Redistricting Commission approved final maps for state legislature and congress. The final maps and data files can be found at the commission's website.
Dec 3, 2021
California's Citizen Redistricting Commission has rejected a proposal to draw a majority-white state Assembly district in San Francisco.
Dec 2, 2021
A group of California voters have filed a petition with the state supreme court seeking the removal of the Citizens Redistricting Commissions legal advisors and disclosures of private meetings.
Nov 10, 2021
The California Citizen Redistricting Commission released draft congressional and legislative maps. The commission has until December 27th to finalize maps.
Nov 4, 2021
California's Independent Redistricting Commission will meet next week, and hopes to finalize redistricting proposals on Nov. 10th. The commission has until the Nov. 15th to approve plans.
Oct 26, 2021
California's Citizen Redistricting Commission released congressional and legislative map visualizations ahead of the commissions Oct. 27th to Oct. 29th public meetings.
Oct 2, 2021
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission launches two free-to-use online mapping tools. The public must use one of these tools to submit proposed plans directly to the Commission.
Sep 22, 2021
The California Supreme Court extends the deadline for the state's Citizen Redistricting Commission to approve and certify a final map to Dec. 27, 2021.
Aug 20, 2021
The California Citizen Redistricting Commission requests an extension for approving final maps until Jan. 14, 2022 to avoid public hearings over the holidays.
Aug 20, 2021
2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission voted to not count federal prison populations in CA for redistricting purposes.
Jul 17, 2021
The California Supreme Court extends the deadline for the state's Citizens Redistricting Commission to approve a final map from Aug. 15 to Dec. 15, 2021.
Jul 14, 2021
California's Citizen Redistricting Commission will ask the California Supreme Court for a two week extension to draw maps in order to gather more public input.
Jun 14, 2021
California's Citizens Redistricting Commission announces public meetings to discuss communities of interest.
Apr 26, 2021
California loses a congressional seat. The state will have 52 congressional seats beginning in 2022.
Mar 3, 2021
California's independent commission launched a tool for residents to describe, and map, their communities of interest, and submit that input to the commission.
Aug 7, 2020
The final commissioners of California's 14-person independent commission were appointed.  Information about the selection process is here.
Jul 17, 2020
The California Supreme Court agreed to extend state constitutional deadlines for the state's independent commission to produce maps, in light of anticipated delays by the Census Bureau.


California’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a 14-member independent commission, created by ballot initiative in 2008, with expanded scope granted in 2010. Commissioners must have voted in at least two of the last three statewide elections, and may not have changed party affiliation for at least five years. Neither commissioners nor immediate family may have been, within ten years of appointment, a candidate for federal or state office or member of a party central committee; an officer, employee, or paid consultant to a federal or state candidate or party; a registered lobbyist or paid legislative staff; or a donor of more than $2,000 to an elected candidate. Furthermore, neither commissioners nor immediate family may be staff, consultants, or contractors for state or federal government while serving on the commission. [Cal. Gov’t Code § 8252(a)]

With an eye to analytical skills, impartiality, and diversity, a panel of three state auditors choose 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and 20 who are neither to be nominees for the commission; the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) may each cut two people from each pool. Eight commissioners (3 Democrats, 3 Republicans, 2 neither) are chosen randomly from the remaining nominees; those eight choose six colleagues (2 Democrats, 2 Republicans, 2 neither), to reflect the diversity of the state. The final commission thus has 14 members (5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, 4 neither). [Cal. Gov’t Code § 8252(b)-(g)]

The 2020 commissioners are listed here.

Nine votes are necessary to approve a plan: 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 3 neither. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, § 2(c)(5)] Each map is also subject to public referendum. If the commission fails to pass a map, or a map is overturned by referendum, the California Supreme Court will select special masters to draw that map; the California Supreme Court also has exclusive jurisdiction in state court for legal challenges to maps that are passed. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, §§ 2(j), 3(b)]


The commission must produce congressional and state legislative plans by Dec. 31 2021, thanks to a four-month extension by the state Supreme Court, in light of COVID-19-related delays in Census data.  [Legislature v. Padilla, No. S262530, __ P.3d __, 2020 WL 4033129 (Cal. July 17, 2020)]  The Commission has asked the Court for an additional two weeks to submit their final plans. If the commission does not pass a plan by the prescribed date, the Secretary of State must ask the California Supreme Court to appoint special masters to do so. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, § 2(g), (j)] If, within 90 days of the plan’s enactment, a referendum petition is signed by voters amounting to 5% of the 2020 gubernatorial vote, the plan will be submitted for referendum at a special statewide election or at the next general election. [Cal. Const. art. II, § 9]

At present, candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by Mar. 11, 2022, unless an incumbent running for reelection fails to file by that date, in which case the filing deadline is Mar. 16, 2022. [Cal. Elec. §§ 1000, 8020(b), 8022]  These dates may be adjusted in light of the extended deadlines for commission plans.

California prohibits redrawing district lines mid-decade, before the next Census. [Legislature of State of Cal. v. Deukmejian, 34 Cal.3d 658 (1983)]

Public input

Commission proceedings are subject to the state Open Meetings Act; commission records, redistricting data, and computer software will be available to the public. Both the commission and the legislature must issue public reports after drawing the plans for state legislative or congressional districts, explaining their decisions. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, § 2(h); Cal. Gov’t Code § 8253]

The commission plans to conduct outreach in eleven different regions throughout the state.  Materials from meetings (including livestreams and materials from past meetings) are here.

Californians can describe, and map, their communities and submit proposals to the Commission using a new Communities of Interest tool.


Like all states, California must comply with constitutional equal population requirements.  California law requests that the redistricting commission adjust census data for both congressional and state legislative districts in order to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residence. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, § 2(d)(1), Cal. Elections Code § 21003]

California must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

The California constitution further requires that districts be contiguous. To the extent possible, they must also preserve the geographic integrity of cities, counties, neighborhoods, and communities of interest. To the extent practicable, and where so doing does not violate higher-priority constraints, districts must also encourage compactness, defined by lines that do not bypass nearby population in favor of more distant population. Finally, where practicable, and where not in conflict with the criteria above, state Senate and Assembly districts must be nested within each other. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, § 2(d)]

In drawing maps, the commission may not consider candidate residences, and districts may not be drawn to favor or discriminate against a candidate or party. [Cal. Const. art. XXI, § 2(e)]

2020 cycle

The first 8 commissioners for California’s independent redistricting commission were chosen on July 2, 2020, and the remaining 6 commissioners were chosen on Aug. 7, 2020.

The California Supreme Court granted an extension of the redistricting deadlines in light of the delay in the delivery of Census data. The independent commission passed final congressional and legislative maps unanimously on Dec. 26, 2021.

It appears that the plans were not challenged in court.

2010 cycle

A new independent commission, established by citizen’s intiative, controlled the process.  The commission invited public input, with more than 2700 witnesses giving testimony and nearly 20,000 comments submitted by the public (archived here).  The commission voted on Aug. 15, 2011 to approve congressional maps (12-2 vote) and state legislative maps (13-1 vote); those maps were precleared by the DOJ on Jan. 17, 2012.

A 2012 referendum on the state Senate districts qualified for the November 2012 ballot.  The California Supreme Court ruled that the Commission’s lines would be used temporarily, for the 2012 elections, until the referendum was held — and then the referendum was defeated at the polls, confirming the district lines until the next cycle.  [Vandermost v. Bowen II, 53 Cal.4th 421 (2012)]

The congressional and state Senate plans were challenged in state and federal court, and the composition of the commission itself was challenged in state court.  No challenge was successful.  [Vandermost v. Bowen, No. S196493 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Oct. 26, 2011); Radanovich v. Bowen, No. S196852 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Oct. 26, 2011); Radanovich v. Bowen, No. 2:11-cv-09786, 2012 WL 13012647 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 9, 2012); Connerly v. California, No. 34-2011-80000966 (Cal. Super. Ct., Sacramento Cnty. Nov. 6, 2017)]

2000 cycle

California’s legislature controlled the redistricting process. The state Assembly, state Senate, and congressional maps were enacted on Sept. 26, 2001, and precleared on Nov. 30, 2001.

The state Senate and congressional plans were challenged in federal court, and the state Assembly plan was challenged in state court.  No challenge was successful. [Cano v. Davis, 211 F. Supp. 2d 1208 (C.D. Cal. 2002); Nadler v. Schwarzenegger, 137 Cal.App.4th 1327 (2006)]

Redistricting Cases in California

Search all California Cases >

California | Process
Moreno v. Citizen Redistricting Comm'n
State court rejected challenge to independent commission work process: alleged public meeting violations, legal counsel conflict
Last Updated Dec 15, 2021
Case No. S272036 (Cal. S. Ct.)
Cycle 2020
California | Process
Legislature v. Weber (was Padilla)
State court modified deadlines for independent commission in light of census delay.
Last Updated Sep 22, 2021
Case No. S262530 (Cal. S. Ct.)
Cycle 2020
National | California | Process
San Jose v. Ross
A federal challenge to inclusion of citizenship question on 2020 census
Last Updated Aug 1, 2019
Case No. 3:18-cv-02279 (N.D. Cal.); No. 19-15457 (9th Cir.); No. 18-1214 (S. Ct.)
Cycle 2020