Category Archives: legislation

I support CA prop 11 – redistricting reform

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.

The problem

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.

See also:

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.

See also:

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.
    See also:

Conclusion

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.

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Republican CA electorial college proposal and Ballot access issues

The Ballot Access News has noted that the Republican CA initiative regarding the electoral college may raise ballot access barriers for third-party candidates:


Current law requires an independent presidential candidate petition to list the names and addresses of 55 candidates for presidential elector. However, current law does not have a residence requirement for candidates for presidential elector, except that the electors must be California residents.

The initiative says that candidates for presidential elector must each live in the district that he or she hopes to represent. Therefore, an independent candidate for president would have the task of lining up a slate of candidates for presidential elector, one per US House district. This work must be done before the petitions are printed.

Alex Keyssar on “How Not to Choose a President”

Alex Keyssar (professor of history and social policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government) recently published an op-ed called “How Not to Choose a President” for the LA Times.

The article was originally titled in a misleading way by LA Times editors (as “Dump Winner-Take-All”) that incorrectly suggested the Keyssar was a supporter of the Republican proposal to distribute CA electors by congressional district. Keyssar is not a supporter of that plan as is clear from a careful reading of the article.

The article discusses the history of electoral college shenanigans through the US’s history.
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Revived attempt to ‘fix’ CA electorial college votes

I guess that I spoke too soon. The partisan Republican attempt to change the way that California distributes it’s electoral votes is back in action.

The Ballot Access News reports:

According to this story in the Riverside, California Press-Enterprise, wealthy Congressman Darrell Issa of San Diego County has agreed to pay to get an initiative on the California June 2008 ballot. That initiative would provide that each U.S. House district elect its own elector. The initiative already collected 100,000 signatures in August, then had been abandoned for lack of funding.

Here is Jack Santucci’s take on this development (Jack was an analyst at Fairvote.org and I’ve disagreed with him frequently on other matters. Here I am nearly full agreement with him.):

CA Congressman Darrell Issa (R-49) will help bankroll the effort to split California’s Electoral College votes by congressional district (CD allocation). And he’s defending it as a move to “proportional representation.”

“This is about making people’s votes count,” he said. “It’s about proportional representation.” […]

Issa insists that he has not endorsed a candidate for president and said the effort is not motivated by politics, but by a desire to increase voter turnout in the state.

“If Florida had proportional representation [in 2000], Al Gore would be president today,” he said.

In another post I highlight some problems with CD allocation. The biggest (in my opinion) is that doing so would drastically raise the stakes of redistricting wherever the system were implemented. Bluntly, gerrymandering would affect presidential elections.

Daniel Castro’s response to my ITIF review

Daniel Castro has responded to review of the ITIF eVoting report that he wrote.

In that review I agree with his thesis that “end-to-end verifiable” voting systems should be encouraged and be part of the debate on electronic voting and I basically agree with his recommendations. But I strongly disagreed with his assessment of the relative risks of paper systems, electronic voting systems, and electronic voting systems that print a voter verified paper trail. I also found much of the tone of his report offensive.

My assessment is:
e2e verifiable system > paper system > eVoting with voter verified paper trail > eVoting

His appears to be:
e2e verifiable system > eVoting > eVoting with voter verified paper trail > paper system

And I believe that we both agree the e2e voting systems need more support and some trial runs but are not yet ready for widespread deployment.

To put it pithily, “I agree with the thesis of this disagreeable report“.

Here is his response. This is posted with his permission:
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transcript for Texas legislature clip

Regarding the remarkable clip of rule breaking Texas legislators voting for their colleagues, here is the transcript, including a statement from Alexis DeLee, Spokesperson for House Speaker, Tom Craddick:

There’s been a lot of debate at the State Capitol on bills relating to voter integrity. Some lawmakers are pushing for measures such as requiring voters to show a photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.

Another bill would criminalize anyone who delivers a ballot for someone unable to drive to the polls.

With so much emphasis on one vote for one person, you’d think lawmakers would make sure they follow the rules, too.

In this CBS 42 Investigates, Nanci Wilson found many don’t.

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Texas Legislators vote multiple times?

This is an astounding video showing Texas legislators voting for absent members.
Such votes are against the rules of the Texas legislature but are apparently common practice.

Open questions:

  • Does willfully violating the rules mean that the legislators are violating their oaths of office?
  • Are these votes courtesy votes done with the consent of the absentee member or are a mad mercenary attempt to get as many votes as possible in the rule-breaking voter’s favor?

[Update: here is the transcript]

I’ve been part of a lively debate about some of the issues raised by this video in this forum. I have a number of comments there, so be sure to check it out.

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