Thursday, October 30, 2008


My View about Prop. 11

In California Proposition 11 is about the process of redrawing election district lines after a decennial census. At present the task of redrawing these lines is given to the State Legislature. Proposition 11 would establish an independent commission to redraw the boundary lines for State Senate, State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization districts. Boundaries of congressional districts would be drawn by the legislature.

In general, I think it is a good idea not to let incumbent office holders define the district boundaries in which they will compete for reelection. The present system of letting the legislature draw the boundary lines results in a set of safe districts. There are certain districts with big Republican majorities; others have big Democratic majorities. Most incumbents are reelected until they are termed out.

Our Governor is plagued with a legislature that seems unable to agree on a budget for the State. At least, it takes way too long to achieve an agreement. The result is a budget that satisfies the Republican desire to avoid increasing taxes, satisfies the Democratic desire to avoid eliminating or reducing the fiancial support of education and health care, covers the difference between revenue and expenses with a temporary loan, and postpones the basic problem of an unbalance between revenue and expenses for another year. The Governor's diagnosis is that members of both Parties take extreme ideological stands rather than show a desire to compromise in the interest of good government. His solution is to change the way legislative districts are drawn so that districts will be more competitive than they are at present. With more competitive districts, he argues, the successful candidates will be the ones that attract votes from members of both Parties and from non-partisan voters. That is, the successful candidates will be Democrats who have obtained some Republican and non-partisan votes and Republicans who have obtained some Democratic and non-partisan votes in their districts.

I agree with the Governor's diagnosis. Both Party representatives in the Legislature tend to be ideological rather than pragmatic. I don't think that changing the way districts are drawn will change that situation. The reason is that candidates for partisan office are selected at primary elections. The voters in primary elections are dedicated Party members. They are the ones who choose the candidates and they tend to choose candidates who are ideological rather than pragmatic. No matter how the district boundaries are drawn, the candidates selected in the primary elections will tend to be ideologues rather than pragmatists.

Anyway, that is my reason for voting NO on Proposition 11. I think it's the wrong cure for a serious problem.

In a subsequent post I will put forth some of my ideas and opinions about how the problem might be solved.

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