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States still drawing -- and erasing -- new districts for US House seats

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More than a third of the members of the US House of Representatives may have to campaign before a different set of constituents in 1984. Congressional redistricting is disputed or still unfinished in at least 11 states. And it could be months before the congressmen - and any would-be challengers - learn what boundary realignments will be made. Based on the federal census, the districts are redrawn every 10 years to redistribute 435 House seats among the states.

In California, voters last June rejected the current, gerrymandered division of the state. The Democratic Legislature, meeting in special session in late December, hustled through a new, but hardly less partisan, plan that would go into effect next year. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. hastily signed it into law.

Republican leaders and other critics of the measure, including Common Cause, are unhappy with the plan and are considering taking the issue back to voters.

Walter Zelman, director of the state's Common Cause, says the redistricting is ''another vicious partisan gerrymander,'' shaped to ensure continued Democratic dominance in the 45-member US House delegation.

Such a political remapping might have been impossible had the heavily Democratic state Legislature waited until this year, when Republican George Deukmejian became governor.

If the issue gets back on the ballot, it may include a proposal to transfer the redistricting task from lawmakers to a bipartisan, impartial commission. Even in a state election, however, prospects for such a plan are uncertain. A similar initiative backed by Common Cause on last November's ballot failed. Any revised version of that initiative to approve the panel also would stipulate that redistricting be finished in time for the 1984 congressional election.


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