Voters can expect major changes on the statewide political scene this election year as new legislation takes effect and the results of last year’s Census-related redistricting become more fully realized.
Impacts from the redrawn political districts throughout California – affecting legislative representation in the state Senate and Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives – will be seen as early as the June 5 Primary election, which will decide the frontrunners for the Nov. 6 General Election.
By law, California must redraw the boundaries of its Congressional, Senate, Assembly and State Board of Equalization districts every 10 years to reflect the new federal Census population data.
Overseen by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the goal of the most recent round of state redistricting was ensuring the most “fair representation” possible for residents based on geopolitical, socioeconomic and other data, according to the committee on its website, www.wedrawthelines.com .
The process of redrawing the lines was minor in some cases and drastic in others. Some district’s geographical boundaries were redrawn to the point that the elected representatives for those areas – based on their cities or towns of residence – were essentially drawn into other districts.
In other cases, and this was more common, towns, cities and other communities were simply lumped in with similar Census groups in neighboring or new districts.
Inyo County has long been included in the 34th Assembly District, represented by Connie Conway (R-Tulare). Tulare County and parts of Kern and San Bernardino counties have also been part of the district.
When the 34th was redrawn, it was basically whittled down to include western and southern Kern County.
Inyo County, most of Tulare County and a small portion of northern Kern County, will soon become part of the sprawling 26th Assembly District.
The 25th Congressional District, an office held by Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) since 1992, has included Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys, portions of San Bernardino County and all of Inyo and Mono counties.
The 25th has been redrawn to maintain northern Los Angeles County (including Palmdale and Santa Clarita), while excluding the more rural areas. Inyo County has been added to the newly drawn District 8, which now covers the Eastern Sierra and most of San Bernardino County, as well as Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, all 80 seats in the California Assembly are up for election in November.
Bill Berryhill (R-Ceres), the longtime representative of Assembly District 26, would have to run for re-election in the newly created 21st Assembly District in order to stay in office. He’s opted instead to seek election to the Fifth Senate District.
According to Inyo County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Kammi Foote, because Conway resides in the newly created 26th District, she is considered the incumbent for the race taking shape there.
Foote noted that Constitutional requirements for running for Congress do not require a candidate to live in the district they represent, which means McKeon could have chosen to run in the new District 8, but he didn’t.
The incumbent, Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), has announced his intention to retire rather than run for re-election, leaving the race wide open.
Several other candidates have already stepped forward with an interest in snatching up the newly created District 8 Congressional seat.
As of Friday, these political hopefuls included:
• Jackie Conaway (D): Unsuccessful candidate for congress in 2008 and 2010;
• Gregg Imus (R): Co-founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps;
• Bill Jensen (R): Former member of the Hesperia City Council; and
• Angela Valles (R): Member of the Victorville City Council.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California)’s seat is also up for election in 2012.
In addition to the incumbent, active candidates for the seat in the U.S. Senate include, as of Friday:
• John Boruff (R): Businessman
• Elizabeth Emken (R): Financial executive and autism activist
• Keith Holbrook (R): Chemical plant technician
• Dan Hughes (R): Businessman
• Tim Kalemkarian (R)
• Dirk Konopik (R): Ex-Congressional aide and Iraq War veteran
• Jonathan Durand Owens (R): Actor
• Al Ramirez (R): Telecommunications executive
• Michael Stollaire (R): Businessman, Tea Party activist and 2010 U.S. Rep. candidate
• Orly Taitz (R): Attorney, dentist, “Birther” Movement leader and 2010 Sec. of State candidate
• Don Grundmann (AIP): Chiropractor, Conservative activist
• Vincent May (AIP): Businessman, ex-police officer, USMC veteran and 2010 Gov. candidate
• Gail Lightfoot (Libertarian): Ex-State Party Chair, retired nurse
Being an active candidate at this point for any office – local, state or national – essentially means a political hopeful has thrown their hat in the ring by taking out the initial papers that pave the way toward getting on the June Primary ballot.
For many candidates, this phase involves returning what are known as Petitions for Signatures in Lieu of Filing Fees, due Feb. 23.
The collections of these signatures, or payment of the filing fees, does not guarantee a spot on the ballot. Political hopefuls must actually file Declarations of Candidacy, between Feb. 14 and March 9, in order to become official candidates and have their names placed on the June ballots.
While it remains to be seen which candidates make it to the ink stage, voters could nevertheless be facing a lengthy ballot at the polls on June 5, due to new legislation designed to remove partisan obstacles for choosing candidates for state offices.
Proposition 14, also known as the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, places all candidates running for voter-nominated offices – in this case, U.S. Congressional, State Assembly and State Senate – on a single combined ballot, regardless of party affiliation. In other words, voters will be able to see all the candidates and simply be asked to vote for the candidate of their choosing. The top two vote-getters will then advance to the General Election in November.
Prior to now, voters registered with a certain political party could only choose from among that party’s candidates.
The exception to these new rules, according to Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Foote, is the office of president.
“Voters who are registered with a political party must still vote their party’s ballot for the office of U.S. President,” she said.
What this essentially means, Foote explained, is some residents may need to re-register to vote prior to June.
According to Foote, the Democrats and American Independents are the only two parties who have decided to let “No Party Preference” voters use their ballots. Other political parties, such as the Republicans, require voters to be registered as Republicans to vote for Republican candidates.
Consequently, residents who are registered with No Party Preference, or even voters who are currently Democrat but are thinking of voting Republican in the upcoming presidential election, will need to re-register and change their party affiliation.
The deadline to re-register or register at all is Monday, May 21.
For more information, contact the Inyo County Elections Department by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org  or by telephone at (760) 878-0224.