Toothless Prop Won’t Chew Through Safe Districts

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Proposition 11, if passed, will transfer redistricting powers from California’s legislature, a body of mostly incumbent politicians, to an unelected, independent 14-member commission. The commission would establish districts for the Board of Equalization, state senate and state assembly.
However, the state legislature will still retain the power to draw congressional districts. While the proposition might seem like a good way to reduce partisan political power in the legislature, it’s likely that it will fail to ensure political accountability, competition or even prevent the solidification of incumbency.
If Americans typically do not approve of the legislature due to its lack of accountability, then they wouldn’t approve of this commission since its members are not directly elected but are selected by the State Auditor. The proposition will pass the buck to another body that will fail to fairly represent the people of California.
The selection process for membership on the commission starts with the State Auditor who chooses three independent auditors, two representing the major parties and one independent. This panel of auditors will select eight commission members based on a random draw from a pool of 60, which consists of 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans and 20 Independents. Legislative leaders have the authority to remove 24 candidates they find unsuitable. The problem is that the draw will rarely result in a balance between the parties because one party will always come out on top. The selected commissioners choose the remaining six for a grand total of 14.
The proposition ensures compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act. The commissioners or members of their immediate family must not have run for office, been lobbyists or contributed significant amounts to political campaigns. Other provisions require commissioners to have participated in at least two of the last three statewide general elections.
Another problem with the proposition is the decision-making requirements. Nine votes are required for the commission to act. Of those nine votes, three must come from Democrats, three from Republicans and three from independent commissioners. Under this system, agreements will be rare, quick agreements even rarer.
Californians should vote “no” on this proposition because it has no provision to prevent incumbency and contains no guarantees for political accountability and competition. The selection process is complex and is likely to lead to cronyism while the voting rules will cause chaos and elicit conflicts of interest. Furthermore, the provision that the legislature must try to keep congressional districts based on “communities of interest” is too vague to end gerrymandering and incumbency. This proposition will just provide more funding to the legislature and the commission for redistricting projects, without resolving any of the problems. Wait for a proposition that allows voters to elect a commission without political interference. In the meantime, vote “no” on Proposition 11.

Marvin Lee is a fourth-year political science and international studies double-major. He can be reached at mlee18@uci.edu.

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