Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Arnold wants a neutral California map. I'm for it.

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.


FightforJustice said...

Speaking of drawing election districts in a partisan way, look for a vote on some new judicial districts on Jan. 10-11. The General Assembly, or more accurately, the Democrats in the GA on a straight party-line vote, are likely to create judicial subcircuits in several counties (Kane, Boone, Winnebago). These subcircuits are drawn strictly by the Dems for the Dems.

Jeff Wegerson said...

I believe that competitive districts enhance the potential for evential electoral reforms like IRV, Condorcet and proportional representation because it increases the opportunities for third party or person "spoiling".

So yes, I'm for them too.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the California Dems are against the proposal. Dan's right that it will result in a gain of a seat or two in the Congressional delegation, but a non-partisan panel will almost certainly result in a smaller Dem advantage in the state legislature. And guess who decides on whether to adopt a nonpartisan redistricting?

Vasyl (still too lazy to get a blogger account!)

FightforJustice said...

In addition, even if Dems maintained the same majority, more of them would have to compete to keep their seats. Why would they give up the safe seats they have now? Because they think it would be in the public interest? LOL

IlliniPundit said...


As you're usually a reliable advocate of fairer elections, I'm mildly disappointed in your support of Ahnold's plan. It seems you're only interested in re-drawing the map to pick up a few more seats for Democrats, especially as revenge for Tom Delay. That's a shame, because it would be an opportunity to change the incumbent-driven, feed-the-pork political scene here.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

IlliniPundit, I think your comment is internally inconsistent. You are disappointed with me for supporting Arnold's plan, which you and I apparently agree is a good thing, because I think that it would be good for Democrats and we both think that it would be good for democracy. Admittedly, I didn't repeat that I think neutral maps are good for democracy in the post, but I think that's clear.

Stephen said...

Here's a suggestion: require the minority legislative party in each state to re-draw the electoral map.

FightforJustice said...

In addition to nonpartisan redistricting, the Governator brought up two other stubborn problems in his state of the state address: public employee pensions and our method of paying teachers. Few pols are willing to tackle such subjects, esp. Dems who can't alienate the unions. Right now Arnold is the premier reformer in the nation.