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.
Compliments of Tim Smith
Nov 2010 : Propositions 20 & 27- Congressional Gerrymandering in Ca.
Background to Congressional District Gerrymandering in California
(All vote results quoted below are available at the following website : http://vote.sos.ca.gov/ )
Gerrymandering has been the preference of party politicians all over the USA since at least 1811, when one of the "founding fathers", Elbridge Gerry, was Governor of Massachusetts. Now, 200 years later, and especially in the last 10-20 years, with computer-mapping and programming, and dozens of years of voting history and patterns to input into those computers, at least 95% of ALL district elections are pre-determined based on the way the political party in power draws, manipulates or "gerrymanders" the district lines, every ten years right after the census is completed.
The new technological developments of computer mapping and programming have enabled the political party in power (ie Democrats in California) to maintain a static 33/34 Democrat to 20/19 Republican ratio of House Representatives (HoR) in the California congressional delegation for the last 10 years, regardless of significant opinion/voting swings within the electorate.
For instance, in the 2006 elections, sentiment nationwide swung away from support for, and in opposition to, Republican President George Bush's policies, esp. against the war in Iraq, and the Republicans were swept from power in the House by a landslide Democrat victory. But in California in 2006, only *ONE* district changed hands, from Republican to Democrat, and in 2008, despite solid support for Obama, and a major increase in Democratic support, not a single district changed hands. This is because, in California, the Democrats, working on an agreement with the Republicans, have pledged to keep the ratio of HoRs (initially 33/20, and then 34/19) static and unchanging as much as possible, DESPITE the will of the people.
This is blatantly undemocratic, and results in nothing less than a de facto dictatorship masquerading as open choice for this state's congressional delegation, where the incumbent party maintains it's power and control, without the least concern for the opinions and judgements of the state's voting constituents.
A closer look at the Congressional elections illuminates how the will of the voters has been subverted and trumped in California...:
- California has 53 Congressional Districts.
- Every ten years, after the census, the District boundaries must be changed, or adjusted, to balance out new concentrations of citizens resulting from population shifts, and thus maintain the constitutional principle of equal representation, "one person, one vote", ie each District must be roughly equal in population.
- Because, under current law, the political party in power gets to make the changes and adjustments to the district boundaries, they use that as an opportunity to manipulate the lines in such a way as to ensure as many of their candidates as possible are easily elected, or re-elected.
- The result is, if you look at the congressional and state legislative district maps, you see bizarre configurations of gargoyle-like districts. Communities are divided and separated, towns are bisected, cities and their surrounding areas are chopped up for the purpose of maintaining current political power relationships even to the detriment of the Democratic voters themselves.
- For Instance, in 2008, only 2 congressional races were decided by less than 5%, and as already mentioned, no incumbent from either party was defeated and no new Democrat representatives were elected despite solid and widespread support for Democratic presidential candidate Obama and his fellow Democratic congressional candidates. That's 53 elections, and NO changes, despite a demonstrative public desire for change (and amid plenty of rhetoric about "hope and change"). Because the task of unseating an incumbent representative in gerrymandered districts is so daunting, in 7 districts, the incumbent ran unopposed (except for a couple of inconsequential write-in candidates).
-- Note : the lack of competitive elections is a common characteristic of authoritarian dictatorships.
- In 2006, despite widespread disaffection for Republicans and their policies, only one race was decided by less than 5%, and only ONE incumbent, Richard Pombo, (R -11th district) was defeated (by Jerry McNerney - D, by a 53.3% to 46.7% margin). Once again, 53 elections and only ONE change, despite a major shift in public opinion and wholesale changes nationwide, from Republican to Democrat control of the House of Reps. (BTW, when i say "major shift" or "wholesale change" i'm speaking in relative terms - i am NOT under the illusion that a shift from Republican to Democrat constitutes substantive change). Furthermore, in 4 California districts, the incumbent ran without opposition.
- In 2004, no incumbents were defeated, and not a single race was decided by less than 5% ! In fact, because the districts are so dramatically gerrymandered, the margin of victory for incumbents typically ranged from 2-1 to 8-1 !!, and in 2 districts the incumbents were so heavily favored they ran uncontested.
- In 2002, there were 50 races involving incumbents and no incumbents were defeated. Not a single race including an incumbent was won by less than 18.7% (58.0% - 39.3%), plus 11 races were won by a 30%+ margin of victory (mov), and 19 were won by a 40% mov, or more...
- In total, from 2002 - 2008 in 212 congressional elections, only one time did the district representation change parties. Given that gerrymandering, or manipulating district lines is the dominant factor in determining district elections, that's a 99.5% rate of predictability !! And, once again, that's a rate of predictability characteristic of autocratic regimes, reminiscent of the worst of tyrannies, all the while under the pretense of this being a "democratic republic".
Propositions Governing Congressional Gerrymandering on the November Ballot
- 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 state 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.
- PROPOSITION 27 -- REPEAL OF REDISTRICTING COMMISSION* -- Eliminates the
Citizens Redistricting Commission(CRC) that was established by Proposition 11 (2008), returns the job of drawing state legislative and board of equalization districts to the Legislature, and keeps the congressional districts from being drawn by the CRC. Proponents: Daniel H. Lowenstein, UCLA professor of law, former chairman of California Fair Political Practices Commission + Michael Berman and his brother, Howard Berman, (D-LA) HoR 28th district, who was unopposed last election, and seeks to keep it that way in the future.
Unfortunately, the Green Party's official position and recommendation in 2008, on Proposition 11, was to vote "NO". (Fortunately the voters ignored the GPCA's advice, passing Prop 11 by a scant 51% majority) The primary reason for the GPCA's "NO" recommendation was the lack of a proportional representation provision for the 14 member CRC. While proportional representation is a significant issue worthy of major support from the GPCA, the problem of gerrymandering is so egregious in and of itself, that to reject a major effort to reform it, smacks of out-of-touch idealism, IMO.
Furthermore, Prop 11 did establish a commission that was more proportionally representative of political diversity in California, more than any of our current statewide legislative bodies or delegations. The CRC is composed of 14 Commissioners : 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 Others - ie 4 from neither of the two largest parties. (Percentage-wise that breaks down as follows : 35.7% Dems, 35.7% Repubs, 28.6% Others). In California, the current registration figures amount to 44.5% Dems, 30.8% Repubs, 24.7% Others. So the CRC is actually more proportional than many of my idealistic Green brethren might realize. And additionally, if Prop 20 is to pass, the commission's final redistricting decision must include agreement from 3 Dems, 3 Repubs, and 3 Others; so that a kind of commission consensus must be achieved that includes almost all of the commissioner's political persuasions.
Another provision that helps to preclude gaming or stacking the commission, is that the pool of commissioner applicants is chosen *randomly*. That is to say, commissioners will not be able to campaign for the position or buy their way into the position, without breaking the law. But most significantly, the commissioners must now draw the district lines based on **GEOGRAPHIC** boundaries, ie rivers, ridges, major thoroughfares, or city and county boundaries; and the lines must NOT be drawn based on political considerations, which is currently the over-riding criteria. Wherever possible the boundaries must maintain the continuity and integrity of cities, towns, and contiguous communities.
IMO, it has taken us 200 years to begin to eliminate the insidiously undemocratic practice of gerrymandering (from my conversations with voters, i find that maybe 3-5%, at most, know how un-democratic and pervasive gerrymandering is, while about 90% don't even know what it is, or that it even exists!)
Prop 20 may not be perfect because of it's perceived proportional representation deficiencies, but after 200 years of gerrymandering, (150 years in Ca) it's time to focus on reforming, if not eliminating this insidiously undemocratic practice.
Vote YES on Proposition 20 Vote NO on Proposition 27 Prop 27 is designed to confuse and confound the voting public, about Prop 20, and eliminate the CRC as established by Prop 11 passed in 2008.
PS -- It is not surprising to note that when the initiative to qualify Prop 27 for the ballot failed to turn in its signatures on time, and when, as a result of the late turn-in, at least 2 counties, Riverside and Fresno, did not finish checking the validity of those signatures in time to qualify the initiative, Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer flexed their considerable political clout to relax those temporal requirements and qualify the initiative after all, in spite of expired official deadlines...
(back to Props 2010/)