Redrawing the lines: The controversy behind Proposition 27


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The American Association of Retired Persons, American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters are among the chorus coming out against Proposition 27.

In 2008, voters decided to take the power to draw voting districts away from politicians and put them in the hands of an independent 14-member commission. Passage of Proposition 27 would overturn that decision and give redistricting responsibilities back to legislators.

Clarissa Woo of the ACLU believes letting legislators make the call is not good governance.

“Allowing lawmakers to draw their own district lines is a conflict of interest that is hard to resist abusing,” Woo said.

Janis Hirohama of the League of Women Voters echoed that complaint.

“We had politicians carving up communities and neighborhoods to suit their own interests,” Hirohama said.

Many proponents of Proposition 27 are calling the new citizen commission an expensive add-on during a state budget crisis. Environmental groups, including the California League of Conservation Voters, are supporting it for entirely different reasons.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste said creating districts with secure seats for incumbents is crucial in passing environmental legislation.

“When Democrats are in a district that is considered politically safe, they tend to vote and support environmental policies,” Murray said. “When Democrats are in a competitive district, they tend to not support environmental policies as well.”

And while Murray concedes he understands the good governance argument from groups like the ACLU, he said that having every district be competitive is not good for public policy, especially environmental policy.

But opponents see the independent commission as more diverse than the legislature and less likely to break up communities.

“Right now, it’s polling really close,” Woo said.

Both sides are hoping people will pay more attention to a proposition that is tended to be overlooked.


  1. Soquel by the Creek says:

    Why is Proposition 27 a bad idea? The California Legislature is dominated by one party with a nearly 2-to-1 majority. How fair do you think those political districts will be? If judged by the 2001 redistricting plan, the last time the Legislature drew the lines, not very fair or competitive.

    Every major California newspaper recommends NO on PROPOSITION 27.

    If you’re not familiar with Proposition 27, here’s a good video overview from public television KCET.

    Also, you can read the “rest of the story” here.,_Elimination_of_Citizen_Redistricting_Commission_(2010)

    Californians: VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 27. As expressed by one newspaper, “marking No on Proposition 27 might be the most important thing voters can do for California’s future.”

  2. Matthew Lorono says:

    As someone who has gone through the applicant process for the Prop 11 Citizens Redistricting Commission, I can say from personal experience that the process is very bizarre. The Applicant Review Panel, which selected the applicants, is not following the constitutional requirements in how they have selected the applicants. They have extended deadlines in direct violation of the Prop 11.

    My personal experience have given me the impression that the Panel didn’t seem to understand how to assess the skills of average Californians when picking applicants. They have selected a body 60 individuals, many of whom might be described as academic elitists and career bureaucrats. To illustrate this point, the body of 60 applicants (in the current pool that will eventually be narrowed down to 14) is heavily favored towards those who are in the highest tax brackets, and almost all have higher education degrees. Less than 30% of Californians have such degrees and far less have such incomes, yet the current applicant pool almost entirely of consists of college grads, including a high number of PhD’s.

    It doesn’t seem like the current pool of applicants represent the average Californian. This is not in the spirit of Prop 11. I don’t believe this is what Californians expected when they voted for Prop 11. Additionally, the semi-final random selection process (random drawing for the first 8 of the eventual 14 individuals) will not be guaranteeing compliance with Prop 11 either!

    Prop 11 and Prop 20 might be good in principle, but have just turned out to be yet another Sacramento mess, in my opinion. There has got to be better solutions out there. We are better off not having Prop 11 or 20 right now. Seeing the mess from the inside has prompted me say No on Prop 20 and Yes on Prop 27 this year.

  3. Soquel by the Creek says:

    Mr. Lorono,

    I agree that the redistricting process could be much improved. However, I see the Citizens Redistricting Commission as a major step forward over the previous, Legislature-based approach. At least the Citizens Redistricting Commission process is public and transparent. You can see the people that have been selected as part of the applicant pools.

    In contrast, take a look at the 2001 redistricting process performed by the California Legislature. Michael Berman, the brother of seated U.S. Congressman Michael Berman, was a paid consultant to during the process. How transparent and independent do you think he was in the process? Many have argued that he and the Legislature created protected Gerrymandered districts to protect incumbents.

    Here’s how Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez explained that the Legislature-based gerrymandering system worked:

    “Twenty thousand [dollars] is nothing to keep your seat. I spend $2 million [campaigning] every year. If my colleagues are smart, they’ll pay their $20,000, and Michael [Berman] will draw the district they can win in. Those who have refused to pay? God help them.”

    We need a checks-and-balance system on drawing political districts. The Citizens Redistricting Commission has done nothing wrong to date whereas there are well-documented problems when the Legislature draws the lines. I recommend preserving Prop. 11 reforms and recommend that all Californians …


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