Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special session of the California legislature to debate his proposal for redistricting, handing the process over to a panel of retired judges instead of the legislature. The New York Times story by John Broder (any relationship to David Broder?) is here.
This would certainly create competitive districts (something that most of the country no longer enjoys) in about a fifth to a fourth of all seats, which would be a big advantage over the status quo.
If he really wants competitive elections, then he should support Austria-style proportional representation where the political minority can compete with the political majority in any part of the state and earn more seats with increased vote totals, even without earning a majority of the vote.
I think California Democrats should embrace the shift. Competitive elections should be a good thing for the Democratic Party, especially in California, where the two parties agreed in 2001 on a status quo map that protected every single incumbent, and froze for a decade each party's strength in the legislature. Republicans got the better end of that deal, because the Democratic Party is growing in California, and they were lucky to hold on to their 2000 levels of representation.
Similarly, a neutral map in Illinois would likely expand our federal delegation from the 10-9 D majority to an 11-8 majority (given that Illinois is at least a 55% Democratic state, and 11/19 is 58% while 10/19 is 53%). If pushed through a Tom Delay type of Democratic gerrymander, we could easily draw a 12-7 map.
So congratulations to Arnold. I hope the Dems take him up on his offer to get a neutral map.