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[personal profile] victorthecook
So the elections are in nine days, more or less. As a good California voter, it's time for me to start cramming for the elections. This is, of course, a mid-term election -- you still can't skip your homework. We have 127 pages of state voter guide, covering state offices and 9 state propositions. We also have 192 pages of local voter guide, covering local offices and 15 local propositions. Call it an average-weight election -- the recent record was in the late '90s, when we had 28 local and maybe 20 state issues to consider.

Basically, all of you can help me with my voting homework in this series of posts. I have opinions on some of this stuff, but you may well be able to change my mind with a good argument.

The official voter pamphlet, with the full text of the measures, is available at

We'll start with 20 and 27 together, since they both affect redistricting.

Prop 20 would place authority for congressional redistricting with an independent commission composed of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 'neither'. It would require a 9 of 14 supermajority, with compositional requirements, to approve a redistricting plan. This commission was set up by a proposition passed two years ago, with authority to draw state assembly, senate, and board of equalization districts. It hasn't operated yet.

Prop 27 would place all redistricting back in the hands of the legislature, eliminating the independent commission entirely.

If both these propositions pass, the one with the higher number of votes will come into effect.

So: Should redistricting be done by the legislature, the political body with the most recent imprimatur of the citizens? Should it be done in a non-political way? (Ha.)

My feelings are complex. In the abstract, it seems as if all boundaries across the country should be drawn by as apolitical a commission as we can find. That would eliminate some of the ridiculous gerrymandering we've seen in any number of states. However, we're talking about just one state. And I rather doubt that such a process would remain apolitical in any case.

On the other hand, the legislature is presumed to represent the citizens. Shouldn't they be the ones to set this up? And in any case, is a committee of equal numbers of major-party appointees (and a rump of undeclared persons) the right kind of committee? For reference, the state is currently 44.4% Democrat, 31.3% Republican, 4.4% 'other', with the remaining 19.9% listed as 'decline to state'.

On a more practical level, California has had an unhappy recent history with redistricting -- the year 2000 round has been described, with considerable justice, as a 'bipartisan gerrymander'. The effect has been that districts are either safely Democratic or Republican -- which greatly reduces the ability of legislators to compromise. If they stick to the party line, they'll avoid primary challenges -- and the other party can't take them, the way the boundaries have been drawn.

This isn't the _only_ cause of gridlock in the statehouse, but it's one cause, for sure.

I'm most swayed by the League of Women Voters on this one -- their position is that prop. 20 makes some unhappy technical changes to an untested commission, so they oppose it. However, they really hate prop. 27, which would return us to the unhappy status quo ante.

My call: No on 20, No on 27. Feel free to change my mind with reason and facts if you disagree.
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