[Marxism] Sacramento Bee article for Proportional Representation

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Wed Aug 17 16:00:00 MDT 2005


[While I agree with the basic elements of this Sacramento Bee article, 
the super districts that the authors suggest are too small. Most 
students of Proportional Representation argue that allowing for 5% to 
choose a representative would be fair. In California, that would easily 
be satisfied by creating two superdistricts -- one each for Southern 
and Northern California. - Brian Shannon]
______________

Redistricting Reform: Road Map to Nowhere?

By Paul Turner and Steven Hill
Published July 31st 2005 in Sacramento Bee

Redistricting reform in California has become a roller coaster ride. 
Ever since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger launched his effort last January 
for a mid-decade redistricting by a panel of retired judges, the ups 
and downs have been dizzying as the governor and Legislature have tried 
to outmaneuver each other.

In the latest downward dip of the roller coaster, recently a state 
court threw Proposition 77, the governor’s vehicle for redistricting 
reform, off the ballot due to a clerical mistake - the proponents sent 
the wrong version to the printer!

If you feel like you are being whipped around, you have company. To 
make matters worse, the fact is that the battle over redistricting may 
amount to a tempest in a teapot. When most nonpartisan experts in 
California are asked what impact a redistricting panel will have on 
state politics, the near-unanimous response is: not much.

In fact Proposition 77 does little to increase competitiveness, 
partisan fairness, government responsiveness or minority representation 
and participation. And it certainly will not “blow up the boxes of 
government,” as Schwarzenegger has said he wants to do.

For starters, merely handing over the drawing of district lines to a 
panel of retired judges will not produce competitive districts. Recent 
studies of the impact of independent redistricting commissions in 
Arizona, Iowa and elsewhere show that these commissions have had 
minimal success in increasing competition in these states. In addition, 
in California, where the majority of the population comprises people of 
color, a pool of retired, primarily white male judges will not reflect 
the state’s diversity.

But even more fundamentally, the problem is not who draws the 
legislative lines - it’s where people live. Look at a map of California 
showing which areas voted for John Kerry and for President Bush. It 
looks the same as the map for Al Gore and Bush four years earlier. It 
will look much the same for the Republican and Democratic candidates in 
2008.

Like in many other states, regional partisan leanings in California 
have become entrenched over the past 10 years, with the heavily 
populated coastal areas and cities dominated by Democrats and the more 
sparsely populated interior dominated by Republicans. It’s a statewide 
version of the national Red vs. Blue America map.

Yet there are plenty of Democrats living in mostly Republican areas and 
vice versa, as well as independents and third-party supporters. It’s 
just that their candidates almost never win. But it’s not because of 
redistricting.

It’s because when you elect one district seat at a time, only one side 
can win and everyone else loses. It’s the “winner-take-all” electoral 
system, combined with these regional partisan demographics that 
strongly favor one party or the other, that has created so little 
competition.

In reality, shifting demographics have outstripped the abilities of the 
mapmakers to produce competitive elections. Proposition 77, while 
well-intentioned, was bound to fail.

The governor could still achieve real redistricting reform by joining 
with Democratic leaders in the Legislature to put forth an initiative 
designed to increase competition, provide greater representation and 
increase voter turnout. Elements of a better redistricting process 
would need to include:

1) A broadly representative redistricting panel consisting of not only 
retired judges but also citizens reflecting our state’s diversity. This 
panel truly would be independent and produce a public interest 
redistricting process, preventing overly partisan gerrymanders or 
safe-seat incumbents.

2) The redistricting panel should be empowered to adopt a proportional 
representation voting system like that used in Peoria, Ill.; Cambridge, 
Mass., and elsewhere. The Peoria system uses multi-seat “super 
districts” as an alternative to our currently flawed single-seat, 
winner-take-all system.

Assembly super districts with five legislators per district would 
increase competitiveness, partisan fairness, minority representation 
and government responsiveness. These five-seat districts would more 
likely be bipartisan, even electing some urban Republicans and rural 
Democrats, occasionally even an independent or third party 
representative.

No matter what happens with Proposition 77’s legal appeal, the call for 
better and more representative government will not end. Good government 
advocates, civil rights groups and others concerned with fair political 
representation are focused on producing a truly representative and 
responsive government for California. The Legislature and the governor 
should seriously consider such alternative redistricting methods and 
electoral systems, and include more groups in the dialogue for genuine 
reform. It’s time to think outside the box about what kind of 
redistricting plan will elect a Legislature that better reflects the 
New California.

About the writers:

Paul Turner is Resident Fellow of the Greenlining Institute, and Steven 
Hill is an Irvine Senior Fellow with the New America Foundation and 
author of “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All 
Politics.”



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