First, the ballot measures: Presently California legislators—members of the state senate, assembly, and U. S. Congress—don’t have to contest their general elections because of extreme gerrymandering*: the winner of the primary gets a free ride in the general.
Proof? In the last four election cycles (2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008) combined, only nine seats have changed parties in 648 California legislative and congressional races. Or looking at it like a betting person, the incumbent party has a 981/2 percent chance of holding on to each seat. Stalin and Mao would have been impressed.
In 2008, California voted to take the power to set state legislative district boundaries away from legislators and give it to an independent nonpartisan commission. Next week there are two ballot measures about drawing district boundaries:
Proposition 20 would do for congressional districts what the 2008 measure did for assembly and state senate districts—give the job to the independent nonpartisan commission established by the 2008 vote. This would remove from elected officials the power to choose their own voters and get re-elected at will.
Proposition 27 would reverse the 2008 reform and return the redistricting powers to the legislature.
Passage of proposition 20 and defeat of proposition 27 would transfer the choice of legislators from the party primaries to the general elections, where it belongs. This will have a beneficial effect far beyond justmaking lifetime incumbency rare. Nonpartisan redistricting will encourage candidates for office to run more civil campaigns, because they will need to attract voters from the center of the political spectrum. (more…)