Voters will determine the future of state redistricting this November by voting on two contradictory California ballot propositions: Props 20 and 27.
Both Proposition 20 and 27 are concerned with a politically diverse 14-person commission that was created in 2008 to replace state legislators in the process of redrawing district lines. As they are two diametrically opposed measures — Prop 20 would empower the commission to redraw district lines, while Prop 27 would leave the authority in the hands of elected legislators — only the proposition that receives the greatest number of votes will take effect after the general election.
Every 10 years, California’s elected representatives use state Census information to redraw the boundary lines of state districts. These district parameters are then used to create political boundaries for the State Assembly, State Senate and State Board of Equalization, as well as define federal Congressional Districts for the House of Representatives.
If Proposition 20 passes, 2008’s Proposition 11 — also known as the Voters FIRST Act — will remain effective, installing the 14-person commission in place of elected legislative officials. The commission would be comprised of five registered Democrats, five registered Republicans and four registered with another party or declined-to-state voters, all of whom would go through an intensive interview process before being appointed.
Proponents of Prop 20 argue the 14-person commission is an essential step towards stopping the practice of gerrymandering — tampering with district boundaries for political gain. Supporters also say Prop 20 would check the power of elected officials by handing power over to citizens with no political ties.
According to Susan Shafer, Director of Communications for the Yes on 20/No on 27 Campaign, Prop 20 will allow voters to take power away from representatives who draw district lines in ways that best support their future campaigns.
“It’s important that Prop 20 passes so that voters hold politicians accountable,” Shafer said.
The most significant impact from Prop 20, Shafer said, is that Commission members — unlike state legislators — would not have to step lightly for fear of losing an incumbent position.
Opponents to Prop 20 argue the Commission is too costly and misuses taxpayer money.
If Proposition 27 passes, the 14-person Citizens Redistricting Commission will be absolved, leaving redistricting power with state politicians. Prop 27 would also put a $2.5 million cap on legislative redistricting costs to cover expenses for a 10-year period. Proponents argue this monetary cap will reduce state redistricting costs by about $1 million over the next year and continue to save more over the next 10 years.
According to Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio, saving money should be a top priority for California.
“The most important thing is the money,” Maviglio said. “The commission is costing the state millions of dollars that we can’t afford to spend. We are spending millions of dollars on political games, and we are giving to people that are not voted on by voters. We need to put every dime into education.”
According to Yes on 27’s website, taxpayer money would provide salaries for Commission members to do the work already expected of elected politicians. Maviglio said voters should take the lead in checking politicians — not by reallocating redistricting power, but by actively voicing concerns and discontent.
“[Prop 27] will allow elected officials who are voted on to make those decisions,” Maviglio said. “We should keep politicians accountable, and we can always vote people out of office.”
Ultimately, Maviglio said, under Proposition 27 voters will have the power to voice their discontent about any redistricting — including the drawing of congressional boundaries which allows voters to check politicians who may be drawing lines for personal interest.
Created in 2008 by the passage of Prop 11, the Citizens Redistricting Committee began accepting its first round of applications last December, attracting over 30,000 people. By April, applicants were filtered through and those eligible moved to the second round. As of now, the applicants have been narrowed down to 16 hopefuls and the final commission will be determined by Nov. 2. All applicant interviews are posted online so any Californian can access the data base.
Shafer said these applicants are vital to creating a more respectable government, allowing constituents to see exactly how the redistricting process works.
“The process is open and transparent and allows people to witness and be a part of it,” Shafer said.