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Does Prop 11 fix Calif., or hurt it?

October 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
On November's ballot, California voters will decide on Proposition 11, the redistricting proposition. If passed, it would change the way the state districts are drawn up.Just moments after Governor Schwarzenegger signed California's latest state budget, he walked outside his office and railed lawmakers for taking so long in sending him the spending plan.

"Our system is set up for failure and gridlock, and it is time we fixed the system once and for all," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif.

The governor believes redistricting mandated under Prop. 11 is the answer to ending Sacramento gridlock because it could help more moderate representatives get elected -- people he thinks could compromise. Instead of the California Legislature drawing state political boundaries, an independent 14-member commission would.

Take Senate District 19, where gerrymandering carved a safe Republican seat. It wiggles around Oxnard, a heavily-Democratic city. Another example is where the state's largest strawberry producer ends up in Democratic District 23, the same as Beverly Hills.

"Redistricting has become an incumbency protection plan. What happens is the incumbents draw safe seats so that they get to pick their voters," said Jeannine English from Yes on Prop 11.

Prop 11 opponents say Sacramento gridlock occurs because of the two-thirds requirement to pass money-related matters like the state budget, meaning a small number of the minority party, the Republicans, must vote with Democrats in order for passage to occur.

All but three states require a simple majority to approve a state spending plan.

"Have a majority vote determine the passage of the budget in California. We don't have that, and no redistricting plan is going to change the dynamics of how people vote on a budget, or what kind of stalling occurs," said Calif. Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres.

Anthony Chavez from the U.C. Davis School of Law is a former voting rights attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice, and he believes Prop 11 could help more Republicans get elected to the legislature. He's worried Prop 11 may break up powerful minority voting blocs.

"The lines have to take into account where minority voters live. And if the goal is to draw equally balanced Republican-Democrat districts, a lot of times you're going to cut through minority populations and fracture them," said Prof. Anthony.

If the independent commission cannot agree on new political lines that apply only to state races, the California Supreme Court would have to decide. Most of those justices were appointed by Republican governors.


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