As the Nov. 8 special election draws near, many incumbent California politicians fear their re-elections may be at risk due to the impact of Proposition 77.
Prop 77 aims to eliminate politicians’ power of redistricting and transfer the authority to a bipartisan panel of judges, thus restoring a new sense of fairness to the California legislature. The current method allows elected politicians to choose the boundary lines of their given district. Essentially, California politicians are choosing their voters by drawing lines to their advantage. This obvious conflict of interest has prevented voters from having a say in their government, effectually guaranteeing tenure for California politicians.
Prop 77 will allow a committee of three bipartisan judges to draw the district lines for California’s legislature. The judges will propose the districts, which then will be approved or rejected by voters. This is the only way to ensure voters fair elections. If a person were to look at the current congressional districts of California, he or she would discover that the boundaries are uniquely designed so that the same party wins the district every time.
The 23rd District, for example, is five miles wide and roughly 200 miles long and runs along the California coast. It is the only district shaped this way. The incumbents that designed the boundaries had purely partisan ideals in mind. Lois Capps, the Democratic incumbent of the 23rd District, has been in office since 1998 and was re-elected for the fourth time in 2004. In fact, all 153 California incumbents on the state ballot in 2004 were re-elected.
Whether or not you support redistricting, it is impossible to view the results of the 2004 election as fair. The boundaries have become more important than the voters themselves. Political competition in the districts of California has been nearly nonexistent because of the manufactured tenure of incumbents. California elections will stay corrupt unless something is done to reform the district selection process.
I have aspirations of serving in the California legislature, but I know how impractical it is for a new candidate to get elected. Very few, if any, new candidates are elected into office. The incumbents have the ability to split up communities and cities to benefit their political party. The current district selection in California reminds me of something Karl Marx would say: “If the means of production are owned indefinitely by a select group, there is no opportunity for change.”
Prop 77 will create a new and bipartisan way to ensure popular election. The redistricting of boundaries will prevent legislative stagnancy and will make way for change. With the special election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is obvious that reform is the top priority for California. In order to reform California, we need to start with Prop 77 and put the power back in the hands of the people, where it belongs.
Brent Wisener is a first-year business economics major.