When voters approved Prop 11 in 2008, and Prop 20 in 2010, they were told that political reforms would change the way that politicians drew districts. Voters approved the measure because they were tired of the endless backroom political deals that created circumstances where incumbents were re-elected 99% of the time.
The idea to take the drawing of political districts out of the hands of politicians and put it into the hands of a non-partisan citizens redistricting commission was one that was well intentioned, but after watching its implementation, has fatal flaws. The Commission is unelected and, therefore, unaccountable to the taxpayers. To dream that politics could have been removed from something as political as the drawing political districts, well that turned out to be just a fantasy.
Right from the start the newly created California Redistricting Commission showed signs of problems, multiple commissioners failed to disclose their prohibited political backgrounds. These commissioners hid donations to Democrats, and relationships with political organizations, such as MALDEF, without disclosing these items in their background to investigators. Offenses such as these should have excluded liberal activists from serving on the Commission, however, they were permitted to serve and allowed to have their liberal activism impact our process of drawing districts.
In a public statement, Commissioner Mike Ward disclosed what he witnessed as a Commissioner, stating that maps were actually drawn outside of the public view, and some members used secret meetings to allow political party affiliation to draw districts. Quite simply, Commissioner Ward, stated, “This commission broke the law.”
However, we don’t have to rely solely upon a Commissioner’s observations. The real evidence of Democrat activist manipulation with a predetermined political outcome is in the final maps. It’s clear that the Commission intended to “gerrymander” several districts to achieve a political outcome by frivolously applying the term “community of interest,” while ignoring their mandate by law to consider “compactness.” For example, along the California’s Central Coast, the Commission was able to draw a Democrat district by creating a district that runs from the San Jose all the way to Santa Barbara, a distance of approximately 220 miles. The reasoning the Commission cited was that the coast represented a “community of interest.” However, when the Commission drew Senate lines in Sacramento County, which has enough population for one and a half Senate Districts, they managed to divide the County into six completely different districts.
Several of the Commission-drawn districts are blatant evidence that “compactness” was not considered as mandated by the law. One district stretches from the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova all the way to Death Valley California – from end to end, this district stretches a mind-boggling 365 miles!
The true impact of the manipulation of the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission won’t be felt until the 2012 elections. Remember, the Commission’s job was to apply the law, creating fair districts. However, the current districts heavily favor a Democratic “super-majority” in the State Senate, with Republicans set to lose 3-4 seats in this Presidential election year.
A supermajority in the Senate will render Republicans irrelevant in the fight against any tax increases, fees, mandates, and regulations proposed by Legislative Democrats, including a “Split-Roll” property tax system and the increase of the car tax. In addition, it would be impossible to hold the line against anti-business policies such as an Obamacare-style mandate here in California.
A group that I’m supporting, Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) has been created to circulate a referendum measure that would stop the implementation of the Commission’s tainted maps. By the effort to pursue the referendum simply submitting the requisite number of signatures, it will result in the Supreme Court stopping the Commission’s corrupt lines and overseeing the drawing of fair and unbiased Senate districts for the 2012 election cycle. This is important because the last time the California Supreme court oversaw the drawing of fair district lines, the Republicans in the Senate gained 3 seats. If sufficient signatures are filed, the California Supreme Court will draw new lines and correct the inequities and blatant gerrymandering which has taken place.
Fair districts are what voters believed what they were getting when they approved Propositions 11, and 20, and that is what they will get if the referendum is successful next year.
For more information on Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting please visit www.fairdistricts2012.com
(Mimi Walters is a member of the California State Senate)