T Nation

Gerrymander Reform

Are those of you in CA following Arnold’s attempt to reform the gerrymandering system? I’ve often said I think that gerrymandered voting districts are among the three biggest items undercutting our representative democracy (the other two being activist judges and the transfer of what is essentially law-making power but what is dubbed “rulemaking authority” to unelected bureaucrats in agencies).

Here’s an editorial from today’s WSJ talking about what Arnold is doing in CA:

Sacramento Strikes Back
July 18, 2005; Page A12

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is rolling the dice by ordering a November 8 special election that has the potential to end politics-as-usual in California and beyond. So naturally, Sacramento’s political elites are fighting back, even if it means taking the low road.

The governor’s reforms include a modest teacher tenure measure that would give principals more time – five years instead of the current two – to evaluate new instructors before granting them jobs for life. Another is designed to reduce perpetual government overspending. But Arnold’s most potent initiative would transfer the authority to draw California’s voting districts from the legislature to a panel of bipartisan retired judges. Of the 153 seats ostensibly up for grabs last November – 53 Congressional seats and 100 in the state legislature – not a single one changed parties.

The current system allows politicians to determine legislative and Congressional boundaries – which essentially means lawmakers can choose their voters, not vice versa. And it’s a system that has resulted in a political class that answers first and foremost to its special interest patrons. This single ballot measure would go a very long way toward injecting competition into a political process in which incumbents currently hold office as long as they like.

The proposition has polled well, so it was no surprise that California’s Democrat-controlled legislature, desperate to preserve these sinecures, initially responded with a counterproposal that would allow a seven-member “citizens commission” to redraw districts. A majority of the members would be chosen by the lawmakers, who would appoint commissioners who do as they’re told. Sort of like the puppet regime that Japan set up in China prior to World War II.

That plan was going nowhere, when earlier this month state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a Democrat and former leader of the state senate, decided to take matters into his own hands by suing to have the Governor’s redistricting proposal simply removed from the ballot on a technicality.

Mr. Lockyer says he’s just doing his job. And there are discrepancies between the redistricting petition circulated for signatures and the version sent to his office for review, which is the basis for the suit. But these are minor by any reasonable interpretation – e.g., using the word “select” rather than “appoint,” or “provided” instead of “specified” – and in no way deceitful.

Mr. Lockyer, who’s running for state Treasurer next year, clearly has his own agenda and a history of using the AG’s office – which titles and summarizes initiatives – to make partisan mischief. His outrage seems more selective than principled, and it’s hard to believe he would be filing lawsuits based on semantics if these discrepancies were attached to a ballot measure for universal preschool or higher taxes for education.

The initiative is now in the hands of a judge, who last week denied a motion by the Democratic Assembly Speaker and Democratic Senate Pro Tem to join Mr. Lockyer’s supposedly nonpartisan suit. A hearing is set for later this month, but in the meantime these actions demonstrate just how far the Sacramento political class will go to preserve its fiefdoms.

The latest chatter is that the Legislature might be willing to accept the Governor’s redistricting plan if he would back a constitutional amendment that loosens the current legislative term limits. But the only way to alter the incumbent mindset that plagues the political class is to create conditions for competitive elections. Loosening the term limit law would have the opposite effect.

Some 80 citizen initiatives have been filed with California’s Secretary of State this year, not all of them helpful. But Californians keep resorting to direct democracy because their politicians are shielded from voter accountability. Mr. Schwarzenegger’s determination to challenge this cozy status quo has made him the target of tens of millions of dollars in union-financed attack ads and his approval rating has fallen as a result. Taking reform to the voters is risky, but in doing so Arnold is simply keeping his word. If California wanted a risk-averse Governor, it would have stuck with Gray Davis.

I totally agree with BB.

The gerrymandering that occured in Texas is reprehensible.

Democrats have been corruptly gerrymandering CA for decades. Arnolds plan is the stupidest I have ever seen.

I was born and raised in northern CA and went to college in SoCal. The districts he has drawn up are the biggest POS I have ever seen.

That state will never go GOP. Get over it.

Gerrymandering is ridiculous in ALL the states, including both Texas and CA. It’s to the point where there are more closely fought contests in the Senate than there are in the House each year, even though there are 435 House races and only 33 or 34 Senate races in a given election cycle.

I haven’t seen Arnold’s map, but anything that takes the power of line-drawing from the politicians is bound to be an improvement.

The GOP is driving this and if Texas is any indication of how the GOP gerrymanders (the Dems are just as bad) then the map they have in mind is a joke.

I grew up in a congressional district that mixed party of Alameda County and Contra Costa County. More Alameda County than Contra Costa County and the elected offical was always very liberal to almost hippy skippy levels.

It was beyond frustrating for the families in the district I lived in.

A big win for Governor Arnold – Prop 77 is back on the ballot.


Breaking News: California Supreme Court, in Split Decision, Puts Prop. 77 Back on Ballot

Here is the Court’s order, from the docket:


 [i] Petition for review GRANTED. The judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County filed on July 22, 2005, in Lockyer v. McPherson et al. (05CS00998), directing the Secretary of State not to place any version of Proposition 77 on the November 8, 2005, special election ballot or in the voter election materials, is stayed pending this court's determination of this matter or further order of this court. In the absence of a showing that the discrepancies between (1) the version of the initiative measure that was submitted to the Attorney General and (2) the version of the initiative measure that was circulated for signature (and that was signed by the requisite number of qualified voters and has been certified for placement on the ballot) were likely to have misled the persons who signed the initiative petition, we conclude that it would not be appropriate to deny the electorate the opportunity to vote on Proposition 77 at the special election to be held on November 8, 2005, on the basis of such discrepancies. (Cf. Assembly v. Deukmejian (1982) 30 Cal.3d 638, 652-654.) Accordingly, the Secretary of State and other public officials are directed to proceed with all the required steps to place in the election pamphlet and on the ballot of the special election to be held on November 8, 2005, the version of Proposition 77 that was signed by the requisite number of qualified voters.

  Any public official or other person who has not had an opportunity to revise statements or ballot arguments that have already been submitted to the Secretary of State in order to reflect the version of Proposition 77 that will appear in the election pamphlet and on the ballot shall be permitted to submit a revised statement or ballot argument to the Secretary of State no later than 3 p.m. on Monday, August 15, 2005. After the election, we shall determine ether to retain jurisdiction in this matter and resolve the issues raised in the petition. Kennard, J., and Moreno, J., voted to deny review. Werdegar, J., unavailable and did not participate. Votes: George, C.J., Baxter, Chin, and Aldrich*

  * Hon. Richard D. Aldrich, Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three, assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to article VI, section 6 of the California Constitution[/i]

This is a surprise, and a very curious order. On the one hand, the Court seems to resolve the merits, by imposing a “likely to be misled” standard for substantial compliance. On the other hand, the Court seems to leave open the possibility it will revisit the legal question after the election should Prop. 77 pass. (Of course, if it passes, there are a number of substantive challenges to the initiative that I expect to be mounted.)