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'A major, major change' | Draft California political maps would reshape key districts

If the draft map holds, then the district that elected Congressman Josh Harder, who represents a battleground district, could essentially disappear.

STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — Draft maps from California's redistricting commission would leave some members of Congress without a political home and others challenging members of their own party in 2022. 

The maps released Wednesday by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission are drafts that will change before a December deadline. 

They offer a first look at the state's political map after it went from 53 to 52 U.S. House seats. The redistricting commission must take population, demographics and geography into consideration when drawing districts. It can't consider the partisan makeup of districts.

California is expected to play a key role in determining which party controls Congress, and Congressman Josh Harder (D-10), who represents a battleground district, is among the most heavily impacted.

“I think you can really call it, characterize it as a major, major change," said Stephen Routh, political science professor at Stanislaus State University. "The district that elected him twice is going to pretty much disappear to a great extent.”

The draft map generally separates Stanislaus County from some of San Joaquin County, cut it and extend the respective areas to the Nevada border and south into the Central Valley. Tracy would also be cut out.

“It’s just bad luck of the draw for Harder here, I would say,” Routh said.

Routh says that if the map's current draft holds true, then the Harder camp might have to choose between a difficult election fight or challenging another Democrat incumbent in a nearby district.

However, Keith Smith, a political professor at the University of the Pacific, says there's a big "if" in regard to the draft map.

"There is a real sense that these are advanced drafts but not even what you call a final draft of the maps," Smith said. "The commission has been so pressed in terms of its timeline because they have to have maps out for public comment by the 15th of November. And they didn't get the data to begin drawing the maps until August."

Smith said the committee would usually have about half a year to do this work and basically crammed for the last two and half months. Regardless, the current draft impacts Congressman Harder's district.

ABC10 reached out to Congressman Harder's office, but they said they had no comment on the draft. For Routh and Smith, that's no surprise.

However, Smith said Harder's camp would have reason to feel nervous. 

"In the final accounting, any shift to make it more competitive should make him more nervous," Smith said.

That competition could be a boon for potential Republican challengers in 2022. Routh said Harder's midterm election was always going to be a fight, but if the map holds, it could make that fight even harder.

“I think Republicans in the area are going to be very, very happy about this…,” Routh said.

But Smith believes people should curb their enthusiasm to a degree.

"I don't know if you're smiling yet, but you're encouraged by the proposal. Because it makes your job in terms of winning the election easier than it otherwise would have been," Smith said.

Smith believes there could still be "substantial" changes between now and the finalization of the maps in December.

View the draft map below. A full version of the map can also be viewed HERE.


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