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The Daily Need

Spotlight on California

Last week, I ventured out west to California to produce two powerful stories of democracy in action.

Over a year ago, the citizens of California decided to take redistricting into their own hands. They appointed a 14-person panel of citizens, comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans and four decline-to-states, to redraw district lines. Last summer, Need to Know reported on redistricting in other states, and let me tell you, what’s happening in California is a radically different experiment in redistricting.

Photo: Rawan Jabaji

The idea is that states gain or lose political seats based on population shifts. But more often than not, redistricting isn’t just about demographics. It’s about one party redrawing lines to protect their party or undercut another party–i.e., gerrymandering. The folks in California wouldn’t have it, so they formed the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. With the primaries in full-swing, and the elections just around the corner, we decided to meet up with a some commissioners to learn about their process, their new districts, and the criticisms surrounding their maps.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Photo: Rawan Jabaji

From L.A. we flew to San Francisco to interview Mayor Edwin Lee. The first Asian American mayor of the city, Mayor Lee shared his childhood stories about life as the son of working-class immigrants and how those early experiences shaped his life choices. Mayor Lee also talked about ways to further engage the Asian-American community on a national level. And as the daughter of immigrants, I was inspired by Mayor Lee’s story.

I hope you will all tune in on April 13 to watch both segments.

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