Gerrymandering Ending California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission (Part 2 & of 2)

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53 current Congressional districts in California

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is a revolution which will have an impact on all of us since California continues to be one of the bellwether states. Trends begin in California and move across the country.

People applied to be on the commission and had to have certain credentials. They will be paid $300 a day. An op-ed piece by Richard Reeves in the post several weeks ago decried this experiment as absurd and predicted California would quickly return this power to the legislature because citizens chosen at random were not smart enough or wise enough to do this. Hmmm.

This is a curious statement by Reeves because we entrust 12 member juries to decide if someone is guilty or innocent. In Florida, where I used to live, juries in cases of first degree murder also recommend if the convicted should receive life or death, although the trial judge does not have to follow their recommendation. If we, as a society, trust 12 people with that, why not trust 14 to do the right thing and draw boundaries of election districts? While the initial amendment was passed in 2008, that only applied to state legislative districts. Prop 20, which squeaked through with less than 51% of the vote on Election Day of November 2010, adds the US Congressional districts to the commission’s purview.

Said Jean Brown, an organizer for San Diego Common Cause:

When they draw the lines, they are not going to be looking at the percentage of Republicans or Democrats in a group or others, the – you know, all the other political parties. They’re going to be looking at the communities of interest, geographic boundaries and that sort of thing. And part of the reason we feel that they will be more likely to do that is because this commission has – will be chosen from people who have no vested interest, no lobbyists, no staff of lobbyists, no chairs of political parties. None of those people will be allowed to be on the, or even apply on the – to the commission.

The North County Times, a large daily paper in North San Diego, said the following:

EDITORIAL: A return to the Golden State
OUR VIEW: Redistricting commission could be first step in long journey backThe eight, vetted for impartiality and smarts, include five women and three men. Four are Asian, two Caucasian, one black and one Latino. Seven of the eight have degrees from the UC system; all have advanced degrees. Three have law degrees. One has a doctorate in higher education and organizational change.

If this becomes a trend, it will have an impact. How large? I don’t know but certainly large enough to be noticed. This is an astonishing change for a state the size of California to make. To my knowledge, only Iowa has an independent body to draw political boundary lines. Furthermore, the above seem like a capable group of citizens to me. I would certainly trust them more than the legislature of any state. These commissioners will select the other six from different sub-pools of applicants. They couldn’t do a worse job and probably they will do a better job than the California legislature. They will draw the boundaries of California’s legislature as well as California’s Congressional Districts. California has 53 Congresspersons – more than any other state. The boundaries of all 53 of these districts will change between now and the election of 2012. And the districts will be less gerrymandered, one hopes. Who knows what will happen but something big could happen hence the Law of Unintended Consequences will apply since whatever happens won’t be what people expect.

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

Part 1

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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