10/13/2010 by California Forward
Proposition 20: Redistricting of Congressional districts
California Forward is dedicated to offering nonpartisan, informative, straightforward information about the propositions that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. We will post informational articles on each ballot measure, to help you as you make your voting decisions.
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NOTE: California Forward’s work on governance reform may be affected by several of these measures, although we have not taken a position on them – with one exception. CA Fwd opposes Prop 27. Prop 27 would reverse the landmark redistricting reform plan that was enacted by voters in 2008 as Prop 11. California Forward endorsed Prop 11 and has been deeply involved -- with many other groups -- in supporting successful implementation of the reform since enactment. The opportunity to serve California through the new redistricting commission inspired tens of thousands of highly qualified Californians to apply for the job, which we applaud. We look forward to the new, independent commission taking control of state redistricting in 2011.
This measure takes away responsibility from the State Legislature for determining the boundaries of the state’s U.S. Congressional districts, and puts it in the hands of a bipartisan commission recently established by voters.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission was established in 2008, when voters passed Proposition 11. It is currently responsible for overseeing only state-level ‘redistricting’—a constitutionally-mandated adjustment of State Assembly and State Senate district boundary lines, occurring every ten years to reflect population changes in the census. Proposition 11 did not include redistricting of California’s 53 U.S. House of Representatives seats.
The commission, which will be named later this year, will consist of 14 registered voters (5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 independents). They will be selected from a list of applicants, after thorough vetting process by the State
Legislature. Their work on redistricting is scheduled to begin in 2011.
A YES vote: Moves the responsibility for determining the boundaries of California’s districts for the U.S. House of Representatives into the hands of the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
A NO vote: Leaves the responsibility for determining the boundaries of Congressional districts to the State Legislature. Redistricting of State Assembly and State Senate districts would remain with the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
(NOTE: Another measure on the ballot, Proposition 27, would also change the rules around redistricting by returning the responsibility for determining state legislative boundaries to the Legislature. If both measures pass, the proposition receiving the greater number of “yes” votes would be the only one to go into effect.)
Every ten years, the State Constitution requires that state legislative districts be redrawn to reflect changes in California’s population. However, legislators who oversee the ‘redistricting’ process have often redrawn districts to the advantage of whichever party is in power in Sacramento, or to protect incumbents. This has led to the creation of sprawling districts that criss-cross city and county lines and stretch over unrelated regions.
Proposition 11 removed the power of lawmakers to shape their own districts, and Proposition 20 would take another step, handing over the Legislature’s remaining redistricting powers—in this case over the boundaries of U.S. Congressional districts— to the new Citizens Redistricting Commission. It would also set the same requirements for Congressional districts that exist for state districts; In particular, district boundaries would be required to maintain the geographic integrity of cities, counties, and “communities of interest.”
Some opponents of this measure want to put the redistricting process back in the hands of a democratically-elected body, the Legislature. They say state representatives will do a better job, because they may be removed from office, if voters disapprove of the way they have redrawn districts—something that cannot be said of the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
Others support the commission’s work on state-level districts, but fear that expanding its mandate to Congressional redistricting, as well, would give it too much to do in the time allotted. (The commission is required to redraw the districts between April and September 2011.) There is also some question about how the commission would define “communities of interest”—groups that would be protected under the proposition from being split up into multiple districts.