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The California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a 14-member independent body established to prevent gerrymandering, will redraw federal and state legislative districts following the release of 2020 census data. Courtesy photo
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Redistricting commissioners dismiss contractor’s partisan connection

REGION — The California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which will redraw federal and state legislative districts following the 2020 census, recently awarded consulting contracts to two firms, one with open ties to Democratic campaigns.

The commission is an independent body, established by a 2008 ballot initiative, to prevent gerrymandering. It comprises 14 members, vetted but not appointed directly by the state legislature. Commissioners include five Republicans, five Democrats (among them, Encinitas’ Patricia Sinay), and four members not affiliated with either of those parties.

The commission announced on March 30 that it hired HaystaqDNA and Q2 Data & Research, LLC — Wisconsin and California firms, respectively — “to assist in the professional and technical drawing of district lines.”

HaystaqDNA led “microtargeting” efforts for Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns in 2008 and 2016, according to the company’s website. Such efforts use big data and predictive modeling to hone voter outreach through digital advertising, social media, and the like.

Strategic Telemetry, another firm sharing two top officers from HaystaqDNA, also worked on John Kerry’s campaign in 2004.

Federal Election Commission records show contributions totaling some $50,000 over many years from HaystaqDNA employees to ActBlue, a nonprofit Democratic fundraising platform, as well as numerous Democratic candidates and organizations.

“As one of the Republican commissioners, I have complete faith in the Commission’s use of fully public data and a completely open process for drawing its maps,” Commissioner Russell Yee of Alameda said in a statement. “That transparency is what ensures fairness regardless of the partisan leanings of any of our contractors, staff, or we commissioners ourselves. … [T]he public good is well served with people of different political persuasions working together in good faith to uphold our laws and support our democracy.”

“As for the political contributions and beliefs of the consultants, the RFP [Request for Proposals] required extensive disclosure of the proposer’s redistricting experience and independence/conflict of interests including all related to politics,” Jane Andersen, another Alameda County Republican, said in a statement. “The Commission has full authority to disqualify or terminate the contract with or without cause, particularly about disclosures or conflicts of interest. Not disclosing something would have been a significant issue.

“We found no such issues. While their political beliefs may not be the same for all of the Commission, as all the redistricting work is done in public with public input and decisions are made by the Commission, they are irrelevant when it comes to this nonpartisan process. We check politics at the door, and get to work for all of California.”

The Coast News did not find any partisan connection for the other contract awardee, Q2 Data & Research.

Taken together, the two firms will receive $1.5 million for their services, according to the RFP.

“HaystaqDNA and Q2 Data & Research, LLC served as technical consultants to the Arizona and California independent redistricting commissions, respectively, in 2011,” according to a commission press release. “Haystaq has worked on a number of redistricting projects. These include U.S. House and State Senate maps created and adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015, as well as a friend of the court map they submitted for Pennsylvania in 2018 ….”

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