CA prop 11, ‘Redistricting’ is one of the 12 state propositions in this election cycle. This proposition is also known as the ‘Voters FIRST Act’.
I support it. Please vote yes on 11.
I’ve written a fair amount about redistricting approaches so I’ll reference some of these posts in my explanation for why I support prop 11.
Currently the legislature is responsible for drawing districts in which those same legislatures are elected. This creates a clear conflict of interest. This conflict currently occurs in that:
- legislators want to protect their own seats
- legislators want to maximize the seats that their party gets
In CA I would describe the current status quo as a ‘bipartisan gerrymander’ in that the problem is more characterized by seats being protected then by a power grab where one party has a disproportionate number of seats and controls the redistricting system to maximize the number of seats controlled by that party. (I may be wrong in this regard; If you have evidence to the contrary please leave a comment.)
The result of this gerrymandered system is that rather than having voters selecting their representative we frequently have representatives choosing their voters via partisan or bi-partisan gerrymandering.
- An introduction to gerrymandering
- Gerrymandered districts yield a highly predictable outcome for who will be elected. Prop 11 claims that 99% of incumbent politicians were elected in recent elections
- An excellent tool for understanding how redistricting can be used to control who will be elected see the Redistricting Game
My ideal solution
In my view the problem of redistricting is best handled in two ways.
1. Use a multi-winner election method with larger (or state-wide) districts. Election methods that do this are known as proportional representation systems.
2. Where districts are used have the method of creating the districts be automated by software without any human input once the algorithm is determined. This is called algorithmic redistricting.
- single member districts vs proportional representation
- An algorithmic redistricting proposal called the shortest splitline method
- several posts about algorithmic redistricting
Prop 11 – an ‘independent commission’ solution
Prop 11 proposes having an independent commission which is responsible for doing the redistricting. This is a considerable improvement over having the state legislators do it. Much of the proposition details how this commission is selected.
What I like:
- The power to create and shape districts is taken out of the hands of people who have a direct stake in the outcome.
- Prop 11 only addresses districts for CA legislators. It does not address districts for US House seats. This is important since other states (Texas notoriously) are known to gerrymander in favor of having more Republican US House members and some people opposed previous CA redistricting reform since they considered this to be ‘disarming’ relative to TX behavior. It is my view that national redistricting reform is needed to address how US house districts are selected.
What I dislike:
- The independent commission that is created is designed to have a precise balance of Republicans, Democrats, and independents on it. I find it extremely distasteful to enshrine into law an assumption that there are two major parties and that the parties have an approximately equal power balance. This does not necessarily reflect future reality even if it closely resembles the current reality. (And it does not even represent the current reality in CA. The Pew Center reports that currently 39% of CA voters identify themselves as Democrats compared to 28% as republicans. (Pew Research citation) That is a 3:2 ratio not a 1:1 ratio.
Prop 11 is not perfect. It’s not how I would design a solution. But, on balance, it is a clear improvement over the current perverse system. I recommend voting yes on prop 11.