BI 20 (Voters First Act)
Background and Procedural Information

On June 17, 2008 California Ballot Initiative 20 (Voters First Act) qualified for California’s November 2008 ballot.  This initiative would create a 14-member commission with responsibility for redistricting California’s Assembly, Senate and tax-collecting Board of Equalization.

Under the proposed legislation, are single-member districts a requirement or otherwise implied?

Single-member districts are explicitly required.  The Voters First Act requires that “To the extent practicable, and where this does not connect with the criteria above, each senate district shall be comprised of two whole, complete and adjacent assembly districts, and each board of equalization district shall be comprised of 10 whole, complete and adjacent senate districts.”   

Does the proposed legislation provide for Voting Rights Act compliance (e.g. can the commission use voter history information)?

Yes.  The Commission may use voter history information in creating district maps.  Use of the location of residence of any incumbent or political candidate is forbidden.  Finally the Commission cannot draw districts “for the purpose of discriminating against an incumbent, political candidate, or political party.”
Under the proposed legislation, how is the commission formed?

First, “The State Auditor shall establish an applicant review panel, consisting of three qualified independent auditors.” These auditors will select sixty qualified applicants and form them into three pools of twenty members each.  One pool representing the largest political party based on registration, another pool representing the second largest political party in the state, and the final pool consisting of applicants who are members of neither political party in the state.  The President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Minority Floor Leader of the Assembly will each be able to strike two applicants from each pool for a total of eight struck members.  The State Auditor will then draw three names from the pools consisting of members of the first and second largest political parties and two names from the pool consisting of applicants not a member of the one of the two largest political parties. 

These eight commissioners will then select six additional members by selecting 2 of the remaining members from the three pools.  An affirmative vote of five of the eight initial commissioners is required to select each of the six subsequent commissioners.  A plan must receive at least nine affirmative votes with at least three affirmative votes from each of commissioners representing the two largest political parties.  A successfully passed plan will then be submitted to the voters of California for a referendum.  If at any point the commission is unable to create a district map or the voters reject the plan in a referendum then the California Supreme Court will appoint Special Masters to finish the redistricting process.  The Special Masters will have final authority to develop a redistricting map.
Under the proposed legislation, are competitive districts favored?

No.  There is no provision for the creation of competitive districts, although the commission is instructed to not favor any political party or candidate for office.   

Under the proposed legislation, can members of the public submit plans?

Yes.  The public may use create their own plans using special software provided by the state legislature.  The records and data used by the commission to create their plans will be made available to the public for use in creating t heir own plans.  The public may give comments in series of public meetings to be held on the redistricting plans.  

Does the proposed legislation allow for mid-decade redistricting?

No.  The Commission is only authorized to meet in years that end in zero.
May 14th 2008
Is the House of Representatives Too Small?

The U.S. House of Representatives has been at 435 members since 1911, when the country was a third of its current population. Research suggests that districts may now be getting too big for adequate representation.

November 15th 2006
Redistricting Reconsidered
Washington Post

Citing FairVote's Dubious Democracy 2006, an editorial notes that non-competition in U.S. House races has causes more fundamental than gerrymandering.

November 1st 2006
Lines of demarcation
Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FairVote research cited in this commentary on lopsided redistricting, uncompetitive districts and the party primary battles they inspire.

October 30th 2006
Electile Dysfunction?
News Release Wire

Former FairVote President Matthew Cossolotto calls for a range of reforms, highlighting two problems of American democracy: "counting the votes" and "making votes count."

August 19th 2006
Eliminate districts
Contra Costa Times

CA resident calls for proportional voting in one statewide district as a congressional redistricting reform.

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