, if passed, requires the Legislature to give up part of its power to redistrict to the Governor and the main portion of its power to retired judges. The initiative's only "stop gap" against retired judges being in control is to have an expensive referendum for voter approval of what the retired judges decide. If its rejected, then the retired judges go back to the drawing board for another redistricting and referendum.
All the while, however, the assembly, state senate, federal congressmembers, and federal senators, will have already run and been elected on what is likely to be rejected--and then find they'll run on different structured districts next time, which again, might not hold.
If this sounds confusing and wasteful...well, it is. Heck, even the League of Women Voters
, who tried a similar plan 10 or so years ago (Prop 119), have come out against this proposition.
This pro-Prop 77 report
from the right-wing folks at Claremont College in Claremont, CA have fun showing weird shaped districts. But this is misleading as one may show such weird shapes no matter how districts are drawn. Even Prop 77 says the judges must adhere to the following rules (See: sub-section 2(a) through (i) of the initiative):
1. "The population of all districts of a particular type shall be as nearly equal as practicable. For congressional districts, the maximum population deviation between districts shall not exceed federal constitutional standards. For state legislative and Board of Equalization districts, the maximum population deviation between districts of the same type shall not exceed one percent or any stricter standard required by federal law."
2. "Districts shall comply with any additional requirements of the United States Constitution and any applicable federal statute, including the federal Voting Rights Act."
3. "Each Board of Equalization district shall be comprised of 10 adjacent Senate districts and each Senate district shall be comprised of two adjacent Assembly districts."
4. "Every district shall be contiguous."
5. "District boundaries shall conform to the geographic boundaries of a county, city, or city and county to the greatest extent practicable
. In this regard, a redistricting plan shall comply with these criteria in the following order of importance: (a) create the most whole counties possible, (b) create the fewest county fragments possible, (c) create the most whole cities possible, and (d) create the fewest city fragments possible, except as necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section."
6. "Every district shall be as compact as practicable except to the extent necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section. With regard to compactness, to the extent practicable a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant
7. "No census block shall be fragmented unless required to satisfy the requirements of the United States Constitution."
8. "No consideration shall be given as to the potential effects on incumbents or political parties. No data regarding the residence of an incumbent or of any other candidate or the party affiliation or voting history of electors may be used in the preparation of plans, except as required by federal law." (Italics added)
Does anyone think we won't wind up with some weird configurations under this plan, either?
More troubling, and not much remarked upon
, is that numbers 4, 5, and 6 above are recipes for diluting the political power of densely populated areas in Southern California, whether city or suburbs (and number 3 is really bad that way in diluting densely populated centers' rights for the tax board). Creating districts that are "compact" and "contiguous" will, practically speaking, lead to more power for the poorly populated eastern and far north regions of the State where relatively few people live. If you live in the Southern California basin, this is bad for you regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican. (Note: The two bloggers linked to in this paragraph talk about its adverse effects on Dems in the cities. I think they miss the point that plenty of Republican voters in the suburbs are also diluted in representation if a plan was too contiguous and compacted).
As it is, agribusiness
has lots of power in Sacramento and Washington DC. And recall how much we in the suburbs and cities already subsidize the water for agribusiness
. Anyone want to wonder what happens when more political power through redistricting tilts further toward the agribusiness interests? And please, I'm not anti-farmer. I just hate seeing wealthy interests, whether computer magnates, fast food behemoths, oil companies or agribusiness suck on the public teat while we worry about deficits, debt and spending cuts.
And please don't assume the US Supreme Court will bail us out
if the retired judges who draw the boundaries guess wrong and just 50.1% of our citizens vote to approve the plan. The law has sometimes intervened on behalf of ethnic and racial minorities, but even there it's uneven
. However, I'd bet nobody in the suburbs would likely prevail in any challenge to a redistricting plan that dilutes the suburbs' votes.
The best argument against my point about diluting the population centers' political power is this: The referendum process would stop such a proposal as the population centers would get together and shoot down such a proposal. A fair argument, but one that makes me wonder whether enough of a majority of such voters would do so. Plus, if we in the densely populated areas did reject such a plan, Proposition 77 requires, by its workings, that at least one election occur under that soon-to-be-rejected redistricting proposal. Again, what a mess.
Frankly, I hate poorly drawn districts and I hate the fact that the Dems and Reeps in Sacramento were drawing the districts to protect incumbents.
However, as bad as the last drawings were, they...ahem...passed constitutional muster which again shows why the courts are not stop gaps to a close election approving a plan that could well dilute suburban and urban voters, who make up the majority of the state. In all, we can live without this initative rather than enter into an experiment that is costly and likely to result in more bad results than what the legislature has crafted. It goes back to the remark that supposedly Winston Churchill
said "...(D)emocracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."NO ON PROPOSITION 77.