Voters beware: A group of California Democratic lawmakers is attempting one of the most cynical power-grabs in recent memory. The goal is to overturn voter-approved Proposition 11 in order to give themselves the authority to redraw their own district boundaries and choose the voters they want to represent.
Two years ago, California voters ended this inherent conflict of interest by passing Proposition 11. The initiative established an independent citizens commission to draw new legislative districts following the 2010 census. The new process is transparent and will reflect the state’s political and ethnic diversity. That’s why good government organizations such as California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and AARP joined the Chamber in championing this initiative. It’s also why political leaders spent millions of dollars opposing the initiative.
Before Proposition 11, the legislature-controlled redistricting process in 2001 took place behind closed doors where lawmakers carved up communities largely to benefit sitting incumbents or protect political parties. This led to oddly-shaped, overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican districts that favored candidates at the extreme end of either party. That gerrymandering is a major contributor to today’s intractable partisanship in Sacramento because it shut many voters — especially moderates — out of the election process.
Political leaders never liked ceding redistricting power for their State Senate and State Assembly seats in the first place. But members of Congress sat on the sidelines during Proposition 11 because Congressional seats were excluded from the initiative. That all changed a few months ago when philanthropist Charlie Munger, Jr. began gathering signatures for an initiative to give the existing citizens commission power to redraw Congressional boundaries.
Members of Congress and the state Democratic Party leaders immediately established a campaign committee (ironically called Cal-FAIR) to place a competing ballot initiative before voters this November. If approved, it would kill both the Munger initiative and overturn Proposition 11. The citizens commission would disappear before it even held its first meeting.
The politics behind overturning Proposition 11 is simple. It’s all about power and controlling your political destiny. Power over one’s political future is hard to give up — even if it’s to the very voters you represent.
Watch out for deceptive Cal-FAIR ads that declare the independent commission “too expensive to taxpayers” or “not diverse enough.” Don’t fall for it. Let your elected representatives know that you support citizens redistricting and oppose this antidemocratic effort.