If the U.S. Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in Arizona’s redistricting case, it could spell trouble for California. The plaintiffs argue that the U.S. Constitution designates legislators as the sole arbiters of congressional district drawing, which would make independent redistricting commissions unconstitutional and leave the California Citizens Redistricting Commission with a very uncertain future.
The Commission was formed in response to gerrymandering and partisan politics that plagued California for years, so the idea of letting legislators call the shots on redistricting again is not sitting well with officials. “If we go back to old way of doing it, the bad old way of gerrymandering, I think they need to ask the question as to why the current citizen commission process is actually not a better process,” Commissioner Peter Yao states in a Press Enterprise article.
While examining redistricting process is important, the results that stem from that process are also crucial to consider. Throughout this whole ordeal, officials have been so busy looking for a better process that they haven’t stopped to think about what the best process might be. Specifically, the independent redistricting commission provides a solution for reducing partisan politics, but has it actually resulted in better representation?
The answer is no. California’s 2014 delegation was solidly blue (about 72%) even though FairVote’s statewide partisanship measure indicated that the state was split 40% and 60% between Republicans and Democrats respectively. Almost 70% of the state’s districts are safe, uncompetitive ones. Californians are also not showing up at the polls, with a record low voter turnout of 24.6% during the 2014 primary election. All of this indicates that the California Citizens Redistricting Commission cannot provide fair representation within the current system, as FairVote has suggested in the past.
But there is a simple, comprehensive fix that would both spare California all of the unnecessary gerrymandering/redistricting headaches and change the system so that it resulted in more reflective government: fair representation voting. Fair representation voting would make districts more competitive, reduce hyper-partisanship and provide a more representative government. In other words, it can get to the root of California’s political problems, rather than merely mask the symptoms, and would make for a much less turbulent future. For more on fair representation voting go to http://www.fairvote.org/reforms/fair-representation-voting/.