Propositions 20 and 27 – Redistricting
By Jim Stauffer
Link to Tim Smith's analysis
Add comments by clicking the "discussion" tab above. If a comments already exist, click "+" to add a new comment.
Official Title and Summary
PROPOSITION 20 -- CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING -- Transfers authority for redistricting congressional districts from the Legislature to the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The Commission, which was established by Proposition 11 (2008), already has redistricting authority for legislative seats and the board of equalization. Major funding support ($3 million) provided by Charles T. Munger, Jr., a physicist whose father, billionaire Charles T. Munger, is vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
Proponent: Charles T. Munger, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
PROPOSITION 27 -- REPEAL OF REDISTRICTING COMMISSION -- Eliminates the Citizens Redistricting Commission that was established by Proposition 11 (2008), and returns the job of drawing state legislative and board of equalization districts to the Legislature. Proponent: Daniel H. Lowenstein, UCLA professor of law, former chairman of California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Proponent: Daniel Lowenstein c/o Fredric D. Woocher (310) 576-1233
Prop 20 - YES
Prop 27 - NO
(back to Props 2010/)
This is an analysis of Props 20 and 27 for the Nov. 2010 ballot. The issue is the decennial redistricting of political boundaries. Both propositions seek to modify Prop 11 from the Nov. 2008 election.
Preface (This is important!)
Any public discussion by the Green Party of redistricting must include statements on the futility of trying to achieve fairness in single-member districts (i.e. where only one person represents the entire district) and the advantages of using multi-member, proportional representation (PR) districts.
A PR scheme where, for example, three Assembly districts are combined into one that elects three representatives would give representation (potentially) to three different constituencies. In single-member districts, only the one largest constituency is represented. Obviously, PR would resolve a number of the minority and diversity representation issues that continually plague the current redistricting process.
Consider this one paradox in redistricting single-member districts: There are criteria for keeping cities and counties from being split, and also criteria for keeping communities of interest from being split. Such communities often consist of population pockets across cities or counties. How can any one draw a single-member district boundary that meets both criteria? They can't. That's why both Props list their criteria with an order of precedence. Maintaining contiguous cities and counties takes precedent over contiguous communities in both Props. So the ability for a community of interest to elect itself a representative is not well supported by any single-member redistricting scheme. Only PR can resolve this paradox.
Summary of Recommendations
Puts redistricting of congressional districts under the Citizens Redistricting Commission rather than the state Legislature.
Expands the definition of "communities of interest."
Propose the GPCA recommend YES on this proposition. It's questionable that moving congressional redistricting to the Commission will have much affect, but the expanded definition of "community of interest" is worth voting for.
Eliminates the Citizens Redistricting Commission and moves all redistricting to the Legislature.
Rewrites the criteria for the redistricting process and adds public accountability criteria.
Establishes that populations in each district be "precisely equal" rather than the existing "reasonably equal."
Propose the GPCA recommend NO on this proposition. The only favorable argument is that the Legislature could be held to fair redistricting by enforced redistricting criteria and public oversight and participation. This would save taxpayers from $3M+ for a redistricting commission. But the proposed criteria are weaker than Props 20 and 11. The rationale for this prop has conservative / libertarian overtones.
Review of Prop 11 (Nov '08)
Prop 11 removed redistricting authority from the state Legislature and placed it under a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. This applies to State Senate, State Assembly and Board of Education districts. Prop 11 also expanded the criteria for establishing district boundaries by adding guidelines for contiguous cities, counties and "communities of interest."
However, Prop 11 excluded congressional districts from its scope. The Legislature still performs this redistricting, but now must use the same criteria for drawing boundaries as the Redistricting Commission, and must submit a report explaining the basis of its decisions.
With Prop 11's adoption, constitutional law that sets the criteria for drawing congressional district boundaries now states:
(New requirements added by Prop 11 are underlined.)
[Article XXI, Sec. 1]
(b) The population of all congressional districts of a particular type shall be reasonably equal. After following this criterion, the Legislature shall adjust the boundary lines according to the criteria set forth and prioritized in paragraphs (2), (3), (4), and (5) of subdivision (d) of Section 2. The Legislature shall issue, with its final map, a report that explains the basis on which it made its decisions in achieving compliance with these criteria and shall include definitions of the terms and standards used in drawing its final map.
(d) The Legislature shall coordinate with the Citizens Redistricting Commission established pursuant to Section 2 to hold concurrent hearings, provide access to redistricting data and software, and otherwise ensure full public participation in the redistricting process. The Legislature shall comply with the open hearing requirements of paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (7) of subdivision (a) of, and subdivision (b) of, Section 8253 of the Government Code, or its successor provisions of statute.
[Article XXI, Sec. 2(d)]
(2) Districts shall comply with the federal Voting Rights Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971 and following).
(3) Districts shall be geographically contiguous.
(4) The geographic integrity of any city, county, city and county, neighborhood, or community of interest shall be respected to the extent possible without violating the requirements of any of the preceding subdivisions. Communities of interest shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.
(5) To the extent practicable, and where this does not conflict with the criteria above, districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness such that nearby areas of population are not bypassed for more distant population.
Prop 20 simply removes congressional redistricting from the Legislature and puts in under the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Also, the criteria defined in Sec. 2(d)(4) is expanded.
Sec. 2(d)(4) is modified as follows (new text underlined):
4) The geographic integrity of any city, county, city and county, local neighborhood, or local community of interest shall be respected in a manner that minimizes their division to the extent possible without violating the requirements of any of the preceding subdivisions. A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interest are those common to an urban area, a rural area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process. Communities of interest shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.
The proponent's (Charles T. Munger) complaint is that of gerrymandering. He argues at length about the evils of partisan legislators drawing congressional districts for their own self-interest.
The arguments are true, but Prop 11 established that the Legislature must use the same criteria for redistricting as the Commission. They must use an open process with public involvement, and they must submit a public report describing the process they used.
So the proponent's argument seems to be that he doesn't trust the provisions of Prop 11 to accomplish a fair redistricting process by the Legislature.
Perhaps Mr. Munger's crystal ball is better than the rest of our's, but what evidence is there that the Legislature could effectively manipulate the process while working under the criteria of Prop 11?
The one positive affect of Prop 20 would be the expanded definition of "geographic integrity" in 2(d)(4). Given that it's probably a wash to have congressional redistricting by the Legislature or by the Commission, the GPCA should support this just to get the expanded "geographic integrity."
A question raised in Prop 27 is whether or not a $3M commission would do a better job than the Legislature, if the later is forced to use the same criteria as the commission. That's a question worth contemplating. But Prop 11 has already funded the commission and Prop 27's arguments are weak.
The proponent (Professor Daniel Lowenstein) argues that the estimated $3M+ for the Citizens Redistricting Commission is not necessary. He proposes returning redistricting to the Legislature with new requirements for transparency and accountability. He's also proposing "precise" equality in populations between districts, which was not addressed by Prop 11.
The major provisions of Prop 27 are:
Puts all redistricting under the Legislature.
Adds that redistricting decisions of the Legislature are not exempt from referendum process (i.e. "the power of the electors to approve or reject statutes or parts of statutes")
Includes several provisions for public transparency and involvement. For example:
[Article XXI, Sec. 2(1)(g)]
(g) The Legislature shall establish and implement an open hearing process for public input and deliberation that shall be subject to public notice and shall be promoted through a thorough outreach program in order to solicit broad public participation in the redistricting public review process. The hearing process shall include, at a minimum, (1) hearings to receive public input before the release of data by the United States Census Bureau for the most recent applicable decennial census, (2) hearings to receive public input before the Legislature draws any maps, and (3) hearings to receive public input following the drawing and display of any maps. In addition, hearings shall be supplemented with other activities as appropriate in order to further increase opportunities for the public to observe and participate in the review process. The Legislature shall display proposed maps for public comment in a manner designed to achieve the widest public access reasonably possible. Public comment shall be taken for at least 14 days from the date of the initial public display of maps.
District populations are required to be "precisely equal" [Art. XXI, Sec. 1(b)] rather than the existing "reasonably equal." And, "If precise population equality is mathematically impossible, a population variation of no more than plus or minus one person shall be allowed."
Removes the following Prop 11 provision, and precludes Prop20's expanded definition:
[Art. XXI, Sec. 2(d)(4)]
The geographic integrity of any city, county, city and county, neighborhood, or community of interest shall be respected to the extent possible without violating the requirements of any of the preceding subdivisions. Communities of interest shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.
And adds a similar(?) provision:
[Art. XXI, Sec. 1(e)]
The geographical integrity of any city, county, city and county, or community of interest shall be respected in a manner that minimizes its division. No contiguous city, county, or city and county that has fewer persons than the ideal population of a district established by subdivision (b) shall be split except to achieve population equality, contiguity, or to comply with all federal constitutional and statutory requirements including the Voting Rights Act (42 U.S.C Sec. 1971 and following).
Adds a provision that any voter can demand the Supreme Court review the redistricting decision:
[Art. XXI, Sec. 3(b)]
Any voter registered in this state may file a petition for a writ of mandate or writ of prohibition with the California Supreme Court, within 45 days after the enactment of a final map, to bar the Secretary of State from implementing the redistricting plan on the grounds that the filed plan violates this Constitution, the United States Constitution, or any federal statute.
If you believe that imposing a redistricting criteria on the Legislature will result in fair boundaries being drawn, then you can save $3M by passing this Prop. As argued in the Prop 20 section above, is their reason to believe that the Legislature could continue manipulating the process while working under the criteria of Prop 27?
But, is the criteria in Prop 27 adequate? Compared to Prop 11 or Prop 20, neighborhoods and communities of interest are not as well protected. Even cities and counties are allowed to be divided for population equality reasons.
Population equality between districts appears to be a big issue with the proponent. This 'equality' criterion takes precedent over all other criteria in the proposed process. He wants to change the phrase "reasonably equal" to "precisely equal," but does not elaborate why. It's important to note that "reasonably equal" has been the phrase in the Constitution for some time, it was not added by Prop 11.
"Reasonably equal" is not defined in Article XXI. But we must realize that population of a district does not indicate the number of registered voters in a district. Where claiming all districts have the same population-to-representation ratio may sound like an ideal of democracy, the truth is that a district representative is elected by registered voters, not the general population.
I did a survey of CA county population vs. registered voters using census data from April 2000 and registration data from Nov. 2000. I selected 25 counties of various sizes for a sample. The sample's overall average showed 51% of the population was registered to vote. But the range across the counties was 35% to 64%. There was no obvious pattern of large or small counties having high or low percentages.
Assuming that these population/registration ratios probably aren't different for districts, there appears to be low (if any) correlation between population and registered voters. So, going to precisely equal populations in districts would have negligible affect on how the district votes.
Overall Prop 27 appears to be a serious degradation of Prop 11. While it may be reasonable to assume that the Legislature could be held to a fair redistricting process rather than spending millions on a new commission, the criteria set forth in Prop 27 is substantially weaker than Prop 20.
The proponent's inexplicable obsession with precisely equal populations is troubling. So is the rhetoric in the "Findings and Purpose" section of the Title and Summary submission. It is alarmist and vitriolic. He considers redistricting by neighborhood and communities of interest as creating " 'Jim Crow' districts."
The Green Party should recommend "NO" on this proposition.
If Both Props Pass
Both props contain the same conflict and severability clauses:
If both props pass, the one with the most votes goes into full effect.
If both props pass, provisions of the prop that received fewer votes may be implemented if they don't conflict with the higher voted prop.
If both props pass and all or part of the higher voted prop is found invalid, provisions from the lower voted prop are implemented if they don't conflict with what's left of the higher voted prop.
If any provisions of either prop are found to be invalid, the remain provisions may proceed into effect.