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FairVote's Response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Redistricting Plan

 February 2005

As national attention turns to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to replace the state's partisan gerrymandering system with an independent redistricting commission, FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy seeks to highlight beneficial elements to the plan, as well as ways to improve upon it. We applaud the governor for highlighting no-choice elections in California and hope to broaden the discussion to include additional considerations -- indeed we need far more action on reforming redistricting in Congress and in states around the nation. Since 1992, FairVote, a non-profit, non-partisan electoral reform organization has studied the consequences and problems associated with partisan gerrymandering and the redistricting process, through its groundbreaking Monopoly Politics and Dubious Democracy reports and its 50-state Public Interest Redistricting guide.  Over time we have consistently backed non-partisan redistricting criteria, but we believe the process should not end there, as competitive races and increased representation of women and communities of color requires more than just a neutral line-drawing process.  Furthermore, as the British Columbia Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform shows us, ordinary citizens have much to say about not just who they elect, but how they elect them. The following FairVote reformers comment here on redistricting issues and Schwarzenegger's proposal:

John Anderson (Chair, Fairvote; Former Presidential Candidate and Member, U.S. House): "Gerrymandering clearly contributes to this dismal state of democracy, but it's less of a problem than the fact of single-member districts themselves. The combination of predictable voters, hardening partisan divisions, high-tech tools, and the general free hand given to legislators creates a perfect storm for no-choice elections -- one that fairer redistricting can tame only at the margins.  Independent redistricting commissions are a good first step to eliminating partisan gerrymanders, but for fair and full representation and competitive elections you need more. In my home state of Illinois, we minimized these problems for years by electing our representatives in three-seat districts, using a full representation voting system. California should explore all of these options as it reforms its redistricting process. Contact John Anderson at (954) 262-6183.

David Moon (Program Director, FairVote): "Schwarzenegger's redistricting reform proposal highlights the importance of creating a redistricting process in the public interest, rather than one serving only to benefit politicians. His plan seeks to minimize partisan rigging of district lines, a critical first step to restoring integrity to the process - but it does not address the continuing problem of stagnant representation of women and communities of color. The Governor wants to take his plan directly to the people, but at this early stage it seems critical to allow citizens to be a part of this deliberative process.  Voters should have the opportunity not just to choose their representatives, but to choose how they elect them, as the citizens of British Columbia recently did."

Additional Resources on Redistricting and Gov. Schwarzenegger's Proposal:

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