Gerrymandering: the legal way to rig an election

October 31, 2010

Why bother stuffing ballot boxes and getting felons to vote when you can just draw the district boundaries to ensure your guy or gal wins? Via Reason.TV, here’s an interview with Bill Mundell on the dangers of gerrymandering:

It may not be the sexiest political issue of our time, but it is of fundamental importance to the health of our democracy. Allowing legislators to draw their own districts creates a tremendous conflict of interest between creating districts that accurately represent a community of interests and thus fairly represent the people of an area, and the self-serving needs of politicians.

This is a particular problem in California, where “safe seat” (or “incumbency gerrymandering,” as Mundell calls it) boundaries almost guarantee the reelection of a state or federal legislator. The problem is so bad that almost every member of California’s congressional delegation gets reelected in election after election, even though Congress has a miserable approval rating. And the situation with our state legislature isn’t much different.

We took a big step to fix the problem in 2008 by passing Proposition 11, which took the power to draw legislative districts away from the legislators and gave it to a citizen’s commission. This year, we aim to finish the job by passing Proposition 20, which would do the same thing for congressional districts. But, you guessed it, the oligarchy has struck back, getting Proposition 27 on the ballot. If passed, this measure will eliminate the citizen’s commission created by Proposition 11. It is nothing less than a swinish attempt by the legislature and their allies in the House to seize power from the people and preserve their hand-drawn fiefdoms.

And you wonder why I call California’s legislature “arrogant.”

For the sake of genuine representative democracy in California, it is essential that Proposition 20 pass and Proposition 27 fail.

Put an end to gerrymandering. Break the oligarchy.

UPDATE: J.E. Dyer at Hot Air’s Green Room has an excellent post on seven votes that may determine California’s future.

UPDATE 2: Also take a look at an article in the LA Weekly about Props 20 and 27 and why you should give a rip. It includes a map of my entry into the California Hall of Shame for Shameless Gerrymandering, CD 23, which is 200 miles long and, at one point, only 100 yards wide.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


California’s arrogant legislature

July 11, 2010

I’ve often said in recent years that California isn’t a democracy; it’s instead an oligarchy ruled by a corrupt and distant elite in the legislature who only appear before the people when they need our votes for reelection, but otherwise ignore us and treat us as bothersome children at best.

Next November’s election will see a glaring example of that oligarchy at its arrogant best. On the list of ballot propositions sits number 27, which will eliminate the citizen’s commission created to draw legislative district boundaries and give the power to the legislature.

What’s wrong with that, you ask?

Proposition 27 is a ballot initiative that effectively repeals Proposition 11, which the voters passed in 2008 for the express purpose taking the redistricting power away from the legislature. California has long had a problem with “safe seats,” assembly and state senate seats in which the incumbent is almost guaranteed reelection because the district has been gerrymandered to give the legislator a majority of favorable voters. The result was a group of lawmakers who really had no need to listen to the voters and could rule almost as they wished – in other words, as an oligarchy.

Allowing legislators to draw their own districts is like letting corporations create territories in which they agree not to compete with each other: for customers and voters, the lack of genuine competition and choice can only work to their detriment. Proposition 11 was meant to break this corrupt arrangement, and the citizen’s commission being formed now will get its first chance to draw genuinely competitive districts next year.

Yes, that’s right. The oligarchs behind this measure are trying to gut the commission before its been tried even once. So desperate are they to protect their incumbencies (and six-figure salaries, plus hefty perks) that they are going to try to slip this sham through, hoping the public isn’t paying attention. That’s how little they think of us, even as they claim it’s for the good of the state.

And this measure is not only intended to take back for the legislature the power to draw its own districts, but also gut the intent of Proposition 20, a follow-on measure to add the drawing of congressional districts to the duties of the citizen’s commission. Democrats in the California congressional delegation fought earlier combined redistricting reform attempts tooth and nail. But now that Prop 20 looks like it has a good chance to succeed, Pelosi, Berman, and others have joined with their Sacramento colleagues to protect their own safe seats with Proposition 27 serving as a Trojan Horse.

Make no mistake: the arguments in favor of Proposition 27 are bunk. It isn’t about democracy, saving the state money, or making those who draw the districts “accountable to the voters.” (PDF. That last is one of their sick jokes, I’d guess.) It is nothing more than an attempt by the oligarchy to thwart the will of the people and  preserve their legislative fiefdoms. Don’t let them fool you. Vote no on Proposition 27 and yes on Proposition 20.

And tell the oligarchs to go to Hell.

(via FlashReport)