Posts Tagged ‘gerrymandering’

Guide for ethics-minded California voters: Yes on 20, No on 27, and Abel Maldonado for Lt Governor

October 24, 2010


California voters face two critical ballot issues, and have a chance to reward the person who has arguably had the most positive influence on California politics in a generation.

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…)

Can the center hold? Can America be governed?

February 21, 2010

Sunday, time for poetry. From Irish poet William Butler Yeats(1865-1939)


…Things fall apart; the
centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed

upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide
is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of
innocence is drowned;

The best lack all
conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate

We’ve written here about the destructive effect of gerrymandering in California, where every legislative seat is safe for the incumbent party: challenge can only come from within the incumbent’s own party. What’s true in California is true for the nation. The respected Cook Political Report sets the number of competitive seats at 50 out of a total of 435. The other 385 members are immune from an attack from the opposite party. Republicans need only appeal to the extreme right to get another term, while Democrats need only appeal to the extreme left.

As a result, “the people’s business is not being done,” to quote retiring Senator Evan Bayh. Our representatives in Washington are failing us, not only politically, but ethically as well. They promised to carry out the people’s business, but they are choosing to look first to their own job security. Non-partisan redrawing of district boundaries, as in Iowa and as proposed for California, would solve the problem, but that’s a long way off.

But in the meantime was Yeats right? Can the center hold? Not as long as the best lack all conviction. If you’re in the center you need a large dose of passionate intensity. And so do our centrist politicians—especially those in “safe” seats. And our President.

California Democrats: at a new ethical low and digging furiously

February 16, 2010

The Los Angeles Times reports that California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and “more than a dozen Congressional Democrats” have donated $160,000 to a campaign for a voter initiative to overturn Proposition 11. That’s the 2008 initiative that gave a nonpartisan commission the power to set state legislative district boundaries.

Up to now California legislators have designed their own districts (like the California 38th congressional district shown above) to maximize their job security. In effect they choose their voters, instead of the voters choosing their legislators. Result: In California in 2008, every incumbent running for reelection won—51 congressmen, 9 state senators, and 52 assemblymen. And only nine seats have changed parties in 648 California legislative and congressional races in the last four election cycles (2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008) combined. 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.

The current system ensures dysfunctional politics. Legislators get a free ride in general elections. They need only win in their primary. So the Democrats appeal to the far left, the Republicans to the far right, and they all get reelected. The vast majority of voters and the non-voters? They get bad government.

The people mustered a 51-49 majority to fix the system with Prop. 11. The politicians are clawing back for their own selfish interests.

Shame on them.

Read The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121 other followers