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.
November 19th 2005
Redistricting reform: How best to tackle ultra-safe districts
Sacramento Bee

FairVote's Rob Richie argues in commentary running in several newspapers that redistricting reformers must challenge winner-take-all elections.

November 16th 2005
In Canada, regular folks are put to work on reforms
San Jose Mercury News

Steven Hill prescribes a citizens assembly as a solution for achieving consensus on redistricting reform in California.

November 15th 2005
Citizens Must Drive Electoral Reform
Roll Call

Heather Gerken of Harvard Law suggests a citizens assembly as one means to achieve redistricting reform and buy-in from voters.

November 13th 2005
Arnold had the right idea about redistricting
The Herald News

The Herald News cites Fairvote with commentary about the dangers of Gerrmandering and redistricting obstacles.

November 13th 2005
ARNOLD AGONIZES: How the election changed the governor -- and California
San Francisco Chronicle

Article discussing the recent failure of redistricting reform in California and the potential solution in letting the citizens decide through a Citizens Assembly on Election Reform.

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