Props. 20, 27: The flip sides of real change

Props. 20, 27: The flip sides of real change

In Thursday’s editorial, we promised to consider the ballot propositions in numerical order, for simplicity’s sake. Today, we step away from that pledge — but only for one case.

Propositions 20 and 27 are separated by several other ballot measures, but share some common ground — whether lawmakers should draw their own district boundaries, which is why we’re discussing them both today. First, a look at Prop. 20:

If approved by voters on Nov. 2, Prop. 20 would remove our elected representatives from the process of establishing congressional districts, instead transferring that authority to a 14-member redistricting commission, which has already been authorized, and is to be comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four voters registered with neither party.

That’s not the only layer of depoliticizing the process. After lines are drawn up by the 14-member group, a second commission of nine members, including three Democrats, three Republicans, and three from neither party, makes the final decision.

The only people this doesn’t make sense to are — you guessed it — the politicians and their parties, both of whom have benefitted enormously by being able to construct districts that favor incumbents.

It is the worst form of political incest, and is among the many reasons the policy-making arm of government has become so dysfunctional.

We fully supported Prop. 11, the 2008 push to have gerrymandering banned for state offices, by shifting authority for drawing up districts from those already in office to the aforementioned commission. The same rules need to be applied to congressional districts.

Politicians argue that changing the system would be “too costly.” The state Legislative Analyst’s Office reckons any extra costs would be negligible.

On the other hand, Prop. 27 offers a textbook demonstration of why voters often are confused about the initiative process. While Prop. 20 changes the way districts are configured, Prop. 27 would abolish the state’s redistricting commission — before it has even had a chance to act — turning the authority for drawing boundaries for state offices back over to politicians.

We really shouldn’t have to make an argument for why politicians have no business feathering their own nests, but we will.

The independent redistricting commission was created by passage of Prop. 11. The group won’t be formed until later this year or early 2011.

Even though it’s still on the drawing board, the commission holds great promise for the future of California’s political landscape.

State Senate and Assembly districts drawn up without the onus of partisanship will create more competition between candidates from different parties, with different ideas. What this means for most voters is they’ll have a real choice, rather than a rubber-stamping return to office for incumbents, most of whom are part of the Sacramento gang that can’t get much of anything accomplished.

Some skeptics are calling for a defeat of both Prop. 20 and 27, mostly because they want to give the redistricting commission an opportunity to prove itself, before applying the state treatment to federal offices.

We disagree completely. There is more than enough evidence that we need a fundamental shift in how state and federal office districts are drawn, and history provides ample proof that when politicians create their own districts, there is, by design and inclination, special emphasis on the word “own.”

The current system is failing, and staying with the status quo will only make it worse.

We recommend, emphatically, a “yes” vote on Prop. 20, and a “no” vote on Prop. 27. It’s time to stop talking about change, and make it happen.


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