Prop 11 Citizens Redistricting Commission Showing Problems

It was an ambitious idea that doesn’t quite seem to be working out. Prop 11 was based on the concept that informed citizens, representing the state’s diversity, would draw better maps for state legislative districts than the legislators themselves. Prop 11 narrowly passed in 2008, and is already the subject of both a repeal initiative and a initiative to create this kind of commission for the Congressional seats.

Whatever you think of the concept, it’s not functioning as planned, as Torey Van Oot reports for the SacBee:

But with the supplemental application deadline closed, about 90 percent of initial applicants failed to submit completed paperwork. And a statistical breakdown of remaining candidates shows the group is proportionately less ethnically diverse than the initial pool of applicants….

But white males submitted nearly 60 percent of the completed supplemental applications.

The smaller pool of applications means far fewer voters from each group. The pool of African American applicants decreased from 2,563 to 162. The number of applicants who identified themselves as Latino dropped from 3,526 to 163.

None of the 34 women who identified themselves as Pacific Islanders in the first applications have submitted complete applications this round.

The second round of applications required applicants to submit letters of recommendation, submit essay responses, and talk about their political and work backgrounds. It resembled an application for the University of California – which is significant, since UC has found in recent years that a lot of outreach is needed to ensure that people of color are able to complete these applications.

While many activists from communities of color did a lot of outreach work for this, both the application requirements and service requirements appear to have been so onerous that it is producing a pool that does not really reflect California.

The State Auditor’s office, which oversees the process, believes they still have enough diverse applicants to fill out the panel. But it will be too close for comfort, as a smaller pool means there’s much less room for error in case there are future problems with an application or if an applicant can’t continue as part of the process.

I’ve never believed that this kind of commission is either necessary or beneficial to reforming California’s politics. And it seems that it is not quite working out as intended.

Other states use a panel of judges (Washington) or some other independent commission, or they just leave in the hands of legislators. Given the fact that Californians have sorted themselves according to political affinity, it’s difficult to draw many “balanced” districts anyway, even if you thought doing so was useful, and I’m not convinced it is.

If either the Prop 11 repeal or the Prop 11 extension initiatives do make it to the ballot, the problems of this commission will make a powerful argument for the former and against the latter.

10 thoughts on “Prop 11 Citizens Redistricting Commission Showing Problems”

  1. Who cares about the number of applicants?  I care about the lines.  As long as they find enough applicants to field a team, then it’s a success.  The voters rejected other models–this is the one they choose.  Not my first choice, but the legislature is my last choice.  

    The legislature is going to draw lines for incumbents only.  That is not what we need.

  2. It sounds like a good idea, but implementing it is another story. What we need is an independent boundary commission, made up of Californians who are specialists in geography, demographics and any other fields relevant to redistricting.

    I also like the idea of getting rid of the Senate and having an increased Assembly, smaller districts are a must have.

  3. The State Auditor required not just ridiculous essays (who’s going to grade them?) but letters of recommendation.  I could not come up with 3 letters of recommendation.  This is not in the statute, incidentally,   The letters of recommendation are probably there so that the politicians who make the ultimate choice can check to see who their “friends” are going to be.

    None of this extra garbage is mandated by the Proposition.

    The hacks will always win in this, the most corrupt state in the Union.

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