SACRAMENTO (AP) — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Republicans challenging California's newly drawn congressional maps, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission announced Friday in its latest court victory.
U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson dismissed the challenge led by former congressman George Radanovich. Republicans, who have been trying to halt new district boundaries that could diminish their political clout, had argued that the commission improperly used race as a factor in creating voting districts.
The Los Angeles-based federal judge found that the California Supreme Court already considered and rejected the petition.
"Once again the work of the Citizens Redistricting Commission has been affirmed against baseless partisan attacks," said commission chairwoman Jeanne Raya in a statement. "The federal court has found that the commission's process complied with the law and was fair and representative."
Attorneys representing Republicans did not immediately return a request for comment. They have the option to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court over the federal Voting Rights act.
The decision marks the fifth time the 14-member citizens redistricting commission has been able to fend off a legal challenge.
The panel was created by voters in 2008 to take the authority for drawing legislative and state Board of Equalization districts away from the Legislature. In 2010, voters expanded the commission's authority to congressional districts.
The commission members — five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents — were selected in a random process overseen by the state auditor's office. At least nine commissioners had to support the new boundaries, including at least three each from Democrats, Republicans and independents.
The panel voted 12-2 in favor of the new congressional boundaries while the Assembly, state Senate and Board of Equalization districts were approved on 13-1 votes.
The congressional maps they drew could allow Democrats to add seats in the California delegation.
In October, the state's high court unanimously rejected twin Republican challenges to the validity of the state Senate and congressional redistricting maps. The Supreme Court also rejected their requests for an emergency stay that would have stopped use of the maps in 2012.
Last month, the state's high court upheld the state Senate maps drawn by the commission even while a referendum might qualify. The justices upheld the maps drawn by the commission, saying they were "clearly the most appropriate map to be used in the 2012 state Senate elections even if the proposed referendum qualifies for the ballot."
The Senate map gives Democrats their long-awaited opportunity to control two-thirds of the legislative chamber, the threshold needed to pass tax increases. The GOP did not challenge the new Assembly maps because Democrats are less likely to gain control of two-thirds of that house.