Buried under 10 other ballot measures and a slew of elected offices is Proposition 11, California’s legislative redistricting measure.
The proposition would give redistricting authority to a new 14-member commission, made up of an even mix of party members. This commission would have the responsibility of re-drawing California’s legislative districts every 10 years after the census is completed, a task that is currently left to the state legislature and the governor.
The process of selecting members of the redistricting commission would require potential commissioners to be vetted by a number of groups and elected officials. The law would require the final outcome to be a commission with five Republicans, five Democrats and four members of neither party. Legislative leaders would have the ability to narrow down the pool of potential applicants.
Prop 11 would have a minimum fiscal impact of $4 million, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis. That dollar figure is the cost of the last redistricting process in 2001, adjusted for inflation through 2010.
Prop 11 has a broad base of support among California advocacy organizations, including AARP, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Taxpayers‘ Association and the ACLU of Southern California.
“Right now we are seeing gridlock in Sacramento because legislators are not accountable to the people,” said Trudy Schafer, senior director for programs for the California League of Women Voters, which is supporting the measure.
Schafer said that under the current system, legislators simply redraw districts in order to preserve their seats, which keeps the legislators from being held accountable to the people.
California has seen redistricting measures before, such as Proposition 77 in 2005, but this one is different, Schafer said.
“This really is the best one that has ever come forward,“ she said. “We worked with a very broad coalition to ensure that it had excellent provisions.“
Not everyone is supporting Prop 11, though. A number of minority community interest groups and regional Democratic clubs have stated opposition to the measure. Many of these groups say the measure will not do enough to make sure minority communities are fairly represented during the redistricting process.
“In this country there is a history of discrimination against various minority communities, and despite some gains in how our society works, discrimination still exists,“ said Eugene Lee, voting rights project director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which is opposing the measure.
Lee said Prop 11 would not be a better alternative to the current system as far as minority representation.
“[Redistricting] is a high stakes political game,“ he said. “It can make or break whether minority communities are kept together. While the legislators are imperfect, they do serve as a voice for minority communities.“
While the Asian Pacific American Legal Center supports redistricting reform, this is simply not the right approach because it creates more risk for minority communities, Lee said.
Others, like Bob Balgenorth, president of the State Building Trades Council, oppose Prop 11 because it does not distribute partisan seats proportionately. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in California, but the proposition requires an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the commission, Balgenorth said.
There also needs to be more oversight, he said.
“I think the legislature needs to have some input into it,“ he said. “I think there should be some input from judges, from the governor, and I think there need to be elected representatives,” he said.
If Prop 11 is approved, it would be used for redistricting after the 2010 census.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.