Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Politics: "Non-partisan" California Redistricting Apparently Partisan

Recently, in California, a ballot measure was placed before the voters to establish a "non-partisan" commission to draw up the boundaries for various elective offices.  The theory was to take the process out of the hands of the elected officials who would draw up district lines that protected themselves and their parties from competitive elections.

Alas, it appears that the "non-partisan" commission's work got manipulated by partisans posing as non-partisans.

Excerpts:
The report included an exclusive interview with a redistricting commission member who alleged partisan behavior by his supposedly non-partisan commission colleagues, but the series didn’t cause much attention in the media, the Capitol, or among the public. Apparently, no one was surprised that a commission formed with the best of intentions - i.e., taking backroom political deal-making out of the process by which political lines were drawn - was cynically manipulated to create a partisan advantage.
.......
Commissioner Gabino Aguirre managed to obtain a Senate district for his friend, Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams, in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Aguirre made a campaign contribution to Williams after he was in the running for membership on the commission, and then helped craft the new Williams district without disclosing his contribution to anyone. He also helped draw the district intended to end the career of GOP Sen. Tony Strickland. Aguirre hosted a fund raiser in 2008 for the candidate running against Strickland’s wife.
.......
Let this be a reminder of how easily any reform - no matter how appealing it may sound - can and will be manipulated by those who are most skilled at the political game. In California, reform measures promoted by political novices will undoubtedly be manipulated by the pros.

The LA Times was not convinced that the process was corrupted.

Here are maps at the LA Times.

As you can see, the maps are quite hard to read in the big cities.

Compare the California maps with a rural state like Iowa where district lines are probably a bit easier to draw without strange shapes.  California districts have to accommodate widely varying population densities.  Also, in California, the map drawing is complicated by the requirements to take into account the ethnic groups in proposed districts.

The LA Times also has the proposed districts broken down by party registration and ethnic distribution.

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