California Redistricting Watch

Background and procedural information
Proposition 77, a ballot measure sponsored by recent gubernatorial recall leader Ted Costa and supported by California Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger, would amend Art. XXI of the California constitution to create an independent redistricting commission composed of retired judges. The measure, organized by People's Advocate, a non-profit organization, ultimately failed at the special election held on November 8, 2005 by roughly 60% to 40%. The California legislature is currently in charge of drawing legislative and Congressional districts, with the Governor maintaining power to approve or veto proposed districts. This bill would have removed the  politicians from the process and would have imposed certain criteria for drawing district boundaries. Visit the University of California's Institute for Governmental Studies for more background information on Proposition 77 and redistricting reform.

Under the initiative, are single-member districts a requirement or otherwise implied?
Yes. The proposed Section 2(a) within Proposition 77, explicitly requires members of Congress and the state's Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization to be elected from single-member districts. Currently, the California Constitution provides for 80 Assembly members, 40 Senators, and 10 members of the Board of Equalization, all to be elected from single-member districts. In addition, Article 4, Section 6 of the California Constitution requires that the Senate and Assembly members will be elected from single member districts, and this requirement remains unchanged by this proposed amendment.

Does the
initiative provide for Voting Rights Act compliance (e.g. can the commission use voter history information)?
Yes. The initiative specifically states in the proposed Section 2(c) that proposed districts must comply with the U.S. Constitution and applicable federal law, including the Voting Rights Act.

Under the
initiative, how is the commission formed?
The Judicial Council of California would nominate by lottery 24 retired judges to serve as Special Masters on the redistricting commission. These judges cannot have held partisan office, worked for partisan officials within a year, and may not later run for one of the offices in question within 5 years. From within this pool, the leaders of the majority and minority party in both the Assembly and Senate would each nominate three judges of their opposing party. The Chief Clerk of the Assembly would then draw three names from this pool of nominees to serve as Special Masters, with the added requirement that each of the two larges political parties be represented within the three selections. The drawings would be repeated until this requirement is met. 

Under the initiative, are competitive districts favored?

Under the initiative, can members of the public submit plans?
Yes. The initiative requires the Special Masters to establish a schedule to consider redistricting plans and comment from any member of the public.

Does the
initiative allow for mid-decade redistricting?
Yes. Within 20 days of passage, the process for crafting a new redistricting plan would begin.

*Note: A proposal may be neutral on whether or not to favor competitive districts for a number of reasons, including that such a requirement may be thought to conflict with other criteria, potentially create other legal issues, or is assumed to flow from the new process itself -- or it might merely not be a priority for the legislative sponsors. FairVote believes that some form of proportional voting is needed to ensure maximum competitiveness for each seat and to ensure meaningful choices for all voters.

Update: On November 8, 2005 California voted down proposition 77 by a vote of No-59% to Yes 41% 

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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