California Redistricting–The People Win

150 150 Ed Coghlan

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The California Redistricting Commission released its draft report on Friday showing the newly drawn Congressional and legislative districts. Judging by the howling that is coming from all corners, including many officeholders, it looks like the Citizens Commission has done a great job.

Californians, who are mostly sick of the gridlock that partisan politics has wrought over the last decade, voted to take the redistricting power out of the politicians’ hands and into a bi-partisan citizen effort. It looks like that was a wise decision.

Now understand that these maps are just a draft and we will see new iterations in the coming weeks. But plainly this draft shows districts that are connected by communities and not by voting patterns. In fact, the Commission could not consider the political makeup of the districts it created.

When the politicians control the process, they take care of each other. The result ten years ago was legislative and congressional districts that were safely Republican or Democratic which produced more conservative Republicans and more liberal Democrats and ensuing gridlock in Sacramento and a dysfunctional California congressional delegation in Washington.

With the citizens drawing districts, some heartburn for incumbent officeholders has resulted. In fact, the LA Times reported that …”many officeholders-Republicans and Democrats like-are (not) satisfied with the first round of maps.” That’s a sign this Commission did its work well.

For instance, long time influential Democrat Congressman Howard Berman finds himself in a district in the northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles where an LA City Councilman Tony Cardenas is already talking about taking him on in a primary. And influential Republican David Dreier’s district has been changed enough to include more blue collar voters in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County that there’s a report in that he may not even run for reelection rather than face Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff in an election.

In Sacramento, three incumbent state assembly members live in one district proposed by the Redistricting Commission. That means that Roger Dickinson, Mariko Yamada and Richard Pan have to figure out whether to move, run against each other or step aside. This simply wouldn’t have happened if the politicians had controlled the process.

Latino groups are not happy. Both NALEO and MALDEF have been critical of the maps, saying that the maps may decrease the number of Latinos elected to legislative and congressional seats. That remains to be seen, but I think a better analysis is that there will be fewer liberal Latino elected officials because there will be fewer safe liberal districts. That doesn’t mean fewer Latino elected officials. It means more Latino candidates will have to have crossover appeal in districts that reflect the diversity of California.

The final maps won’t be approved until August, but the vote here is a definite thumbs up for the Redistricting Commission’s efforts. Fixing this political process in California is critically important, and having more contested races that produce more moderate elected officials who will actually do the people’s work in Sacramento and Washington D.C. is a great step in the right direction.

When you add the second good government solution that Californians have adopted, the so-called Top Two primary where the top two vote getters in the primary regardless of political party will advance to the November elected, you have a recipe that should result in a political process that is less influenced by political parties and more influenced by the people who live here.

I remember hearing Jim Mayer, the executive director of California Forward, argue that these two citizen initiatives are going to make a big difference in “fixing California’s political process”.  First returns are indicating Mayer and his group may have been onto something.

And if you don’t think this needs to happen, watch Sacramento this week where the budget deadline of Wednesday may pass without agreement…again.

Ed Coghlan is a reporter at News Hawks Review.


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