Vote NO on Propositions 20 and 27

20: REDISTRICTING OF CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS
Initiative Constitutional Amendment

and

27: ELIMINATES STATE COMMISSION ON REDISTRICTING
Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority for Redistricting with Elected Representatives.
Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute

Background | Proposal: Prop 20 | Proposal: Prop 27 | Conflict between Props | League Position | Discussion | Supporters: Prop 20 | Opponents: Prop 20 | Supporters: Prop 27 | Opponents: Prop 27 | Resources | Points to Make | Sample E-mails | Sample Letters to Editor

Note: For a full explanation of the measure and background information, including the fiscal effect, refer to the analysis of Proposition 20 and analysis of Proposition 27 included in the Secretary of State’s Official Voter Information Guide for Proposition 20 and Proposition 27 and the LWV California Educational publications of Pros & Cons and In Depth of Proposition 20 and Proposition 27.

Because both Propositions 20 and 27 deal with redistricting and much of the background material for the two measures is the same, the two measures are presented together in this Action Guide. Note that defeating Proposition 27 is the highest priority for League advocacy in this election.

BACKGROUND TO THE PROPOSITIONS

Every ten years, following the Federal census, the districts from which we elect our representatives must be redrawn to make them roughly equal in population. This process is known as "redistricting."

In the past, district boundaries for members of the state Legislature, Board of Equalization and U.S. House of Representatives were determined in bills approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. In the 1970s and 1990s, the Legislature and the Governor were unable to agree on redistricting plans, and the California Supreme Court performed the redistricting instead, appointing “special masters” to draw the lines.

In November 2008, voters passed Proposition 11, which transferred to a newly-created Citizens Redistricting Commission the responsibility for drawing new district boundaries for the state Assembly, state Senate, and BOE beginning after the 2010 census. Established anew every ten years, the commission consists of 14 registered voters—5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 others—chosen according to specific rules from those who apply for the position. Under Proposition 11, the state Legislature continues to redistrict for California’s representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Commissioners must be chosen by December 31 of the year of the census. Census data are made available by April 1 of the following year, and the commission must complete its redrawing of district boundaries by September 15 of that year.

When the commission sets district boundaries, it must meet various criteria set by Proposition 11, including creating reasonably equal-population districts, protecting the voting rights of minority communities under the federal Voting Rights Act, and not favoring or discriminating against political parties, incumbents, or candidates. In addition, the commission is required, to the extent possible, to adopt district boundaries that:

  • Maintain the geographic integrity of any city, county, neighborhood, or “community of interest” in a single district. (The commission is responsible for defining “communities of interest” for its redistricting activities.)
  • Are geographically compact
  • Place two Assembly districts together within one Senate district and ten Senate districts together within one BOE district (“nesting”).

Proposition 11 did not change responsibility for the redistricting process for congressional seats. Therefore, redistricting plans for these offices are still included in bills that are approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. The proposition did, however, make changes to the requirements that the Legislature must meet in drawing congressional districts. The Legislature—like the commission—now must attempt to draw geographically compact districts and maintain geographic integrity of localities, neighborhoods, and communities of interest, as defined by the Legislature. Proposition 11, however, does not prohibit the Legislature from favoring or discriminating against political parties, incumbents, or candidates when drawing congressional districts.

Some of the drafters and proponents of Proposition 11 would have preferred to also place the congressional offices within the responsibility of the commission. However, from a practical point of view, there was a strong argument that for the commission’s very first redistricting implementation, it would be better not to give it too great a work load. Additionally, there was extremely strong opposition to inclusion of the congressional offices from California’s Democratic congressional delegation and the Democratic congressional leadership. In order to avoid a well-financed opposition to Proposition 11, a compromise was reached to leave congressional districts out of the commission’s purview, but to require the state Legislature to follow certain criteria when they draw these districts.

PROPOSAL—PROPOSITION 20

This proposition would amend the state Constitution to transfer redistricting for the California delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives from the California state Legislature to the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The commission would have to draw congressional districts subject to the same criteria as it uses for the other districts.

In addition, the proposition would add a specific definition of “communities of interest,” potentially reducing protections available to certain community groups.

The commission’s workload would be increased by approximately one-third by adding Congressional redistricting, but the proposition would reduce the time available for the redistricting process by a month (from approximately five months to approximately four months).

See also Proposition 27 on this ballot, which would eliminate the commission entirely, and return the entire redistricting process to the state Legislature. If both propositions are approved by the voters, the one with fewer votes would be eliminated.

PROPOSAL—PROPOSITION 27

This proposition would amend the Constitution and state laws to eliminate the Citizens Redistricting Commission and return the entire redistricting process for all state offices to the state Legislature.

The proposition would amend certain of the criteria for district boundaries. For example, the population of all districts for the same office would have to be almost exactly equal in population. This proposition would also delete some of the existing state criteria, such as:

  • Geographical compactness.
  • Disregarding consideration of political parties, incumbents, or candidates.
  • Nesting districts.

This proposition would also require the Legislature to hold hearings before and after district boundary maps are created, as well as to provide the public access to certain data. (These requirements are similar to those followed by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.) Finally, it would limit redistricting costs to the lesser of $2.5 million or the prior redistricting process’ expenditures (adjusted for inflation). The amount budgeted for redistricting under Proposition 11 is $3 million. For the 2011 redistricting, the Bureau of State Audits has dedicated additional funds for establishing procedures commissions will follow and conducting an outreach campaign to encourage applications to the commission.

CONFLICT BETWEEN PROPOSITIONS 20 AND 27

If both propositions are approved by the voters, the one with fewer votes would be eliminated in its entirety.

LEAGUE POSITION

The League of Women Voters of California supports a state redistricting process and standards that promote fair and effective representation in the state legislature and in the House of Representatives with maximum opportunity for public scrutiny. The League supports an independent commission as the preferred redistricting body.

  1. The redistricting process, regardless of who has responsibility for redistricting, should include:
    1. specific time lines for the steps leading to adoption of the redistricting plan
    2. public hearings on the plan proposed for adoption
    3. an automatic nonjudicial backup procedure in the event of deadlock
    4. a requirement that any redistricting plan drawn by the legislature be adopted by more than a simple majority vote.
  2. The standards on which a redistricting plan is based, regardless of who has responsibility for redistricting,
    1. should include:
      1. substantially equal population
      2. geographic contiguity
      3. protection from diluting the voting strength of a racial or linguistic minority
    2. should not allow:
      1. the goal of protecting incumbents
      2. preferential treatment of one political party
    3. to the extent possible, standards should also include:
      1. respect for boundaries of cities and counties
      2. preservation and protection of "communities of interest."
  3. Responsibility for redistricting preferably should be vested in an independent special commission, with membership that includes citizens at large, representatives of public interest groups, and minority group interests.

DISCUSSION

Reform of the redistricting process has been a core issue for the League of Women Voters of California for over 20 years. In recent years, we have participated extensively in a number of efforts to achieve meaningful reform of the process by which Congressional, state legislative, and Board of Equalization district lines are drawn. We believe that the process should take place in an open, transparent manner with wide public input; that lines should be drawn according to strict, ranked criteria; and that the body drawing the lines should be an independent body that is selected according to well established conflict of interest rules and that represents the diversity that is California.

Proposition 11, the California Voters FIRST Act, which was passed two years ago, met all of our key reform criteria. We believe that the formation of the commission, the ranked mapping criteria, and the open, transparent process prescribed by the measure will give voters the opportunity to choose their representatives rather than letting elected officials draw districts that allow them to choose their voters. The League is particularly pleased with the importance given to respect for the federal Voting Rights Act and to keeping communities and cities and counties whole; the good conflict of interest rules applied to the commission; and the outstanding open process required.

Now there are two propositions on the ballot which would change Prop 11 in ways the League cannot support. Prop 27 would eliminate the entire redistricting reform passed in 2008, putting the power to draw legislative lines back in the hands of elected officials. They would once again draw their own districts, making sure that the seats are safe. Once again the prime considerations will be protecting themselves and their own interests, not the voters. Prop 20 would extend the independent commission’s power to draw Congressional district lines, which in theory we would support. But tucked into the proposed law are problems. Prop 20 would reduce the amount of time the commission has to do its work while adding to the amount of work they do. And it would narrow the definition of communities of interest in ways that would make it harder for the commission to protect California’s diverse neighborhoods.

Definitions of communities of interest are always open to varying interpretations and subject to lengthy adjudication in the legal system. Proposition 11 does not define communities of interest. But the new definition in Proposition 20 could restrict the commission’s choices, for example by making it difficult to see how a community made up of the various Asian and Latino populations in the San Gabriel Valley—multiracial, multilingual, and with wide disparities in income level, education, employment, and political awareness—could easily fit the proposed definition. As another example, a community of diverse racial, ethnic, social, economic, and educational components that organized around an environmental issue such as pollution from a port or an industrial brown field could also encounter challenges as to whether it fit the narrowed definition.

This is the first time the commission will do this work. We need to give the commission a chance to make redistricting reform work.

PROPOSITION 20 SUPPORTERS 

Signing the ballot argument in favor:

  • David Pacheco, California State President, AARP
  • Kathay Feng, Executive Director, California Common Cause
  • John Kabateck, Executive Director, National Federation of Independent
    Business/California

Signing the rebuttal to the opponents’ argument:

  • Alice Huffman, President, CA NAACP
  • Julian Canete, Executive Director, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce
  • Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters.

Supporters:  Yes on 20, No on 27, Hold Politicians Accountable
866.395.6121 •  www.yes20no27.org

Note: at the time of publication, the Yes on 20 and No on 27 campaigns are a single combined organization; we expect them to be separated at some point soon. Please check back for updated information.

PROPOSITION 20 OPPONENTS

Signing the ballot argument against:

  • Daniel H. Lowenstein, Founding Chairman, California Fair Political Practices Commission
  • Aubry L. Stone, President, California Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Carl Pope, Chairman, Sierra Club

Signing the rebuttal to the supporters’ argument:  

  • Mark Murray, Executive Director, Californians Against Waste
  • Hank Lacayo, President, Congress of California Seniors
  • Daniel H. Lowenstein, Founding Chairman, California Fair Political Practices Commission

Opponents: No on 20; 323.655.4065 • www.noonprop20.com

PROPOSITION 27 SUPPORTERS

Signing the ballot argument in favor:

  • Daniel H. Lowenstein, Founding Chairman, California Fair Political Practices Commission
  • Hank Lacayo, President, Congress of California Seniors

Signing the rebuttal to the opponents’ argument:

  • Mark Murray, Executive Director, Californians Against Waste
  • Daniel H. Lowenstein, Founding Chairman, California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Supporters: Yes on 27; 310.576.1233  • www.yesprop27.org

PROPOSITION 27 OPPONENTS

Signing the ballot argument against:

  • Janis R. Hirohama, President, League of Women Voters of California
  • David Pacheco, California State President, AARP
  • Gary Toebben, President, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Signing the rebuttal to the supporters’ argument:

  • Kathay Feng, Executive Director, California Common Cause
  • Ruben Guerra, President, Latin Business Association
  • Joel Fox, President, Small Business Action Committee.

Opponents: Yes on 20, No on 27—Hold Politicians Accountable; 866.395.6121 • www.noprop27.org 

RESOURCES

Janis R. Hirohama, LWVC President, jhirohama@lwvc.org

Chris Carson, LWVC Redistricting Program Director, carsonlwv@yahoo.com

Helen Hutchison, LWVC VP for Advocacy and Program, hhutchison@lwvc.org

Trudy Schafer, LWVC Senior Director for Program
1107 Ninth Street, Suite 300
Sacramento, CA 95814-3608
916.442.7215
tschafer@lwvc.org

POINTS TO MAKE

Read a summary of the most important points of Propositions 20 and 27.

PROPOSITION 20

  • California is in the midst of a major reform of our redistricting process. The heart of the new process approved by the voters in 2008 is an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that will draw lines for state Senate and Assembly districts.
  • The League of Women Voters strongly supports the redistricting commission and is committed to seeing the process through to a successful redistricting of state legislative districts in 2011.
  • Proposition 20 is premature. We believe the commission should draw Congressional district lines in the future, but the new process should be fully implemented before the commission’s responsibilities are expanded so dramatically.
  • Let’s give redistricting reform a chance to work the way the voters intended, before taking the next step of adding Congressional redistricting. The League opposes Proposition 20.

Additional words for more in-depth situations:

  • Proposition 20 would significantly increase the commission’s workload by adding Congressional redistricting and shortening by a month the time the commission would have to do its work. The commission needs time to make the reform work for California.
  • A new definition in this measure could make it harder for the commission to respect California’s diverse neighborhoods and communities as it draws district maps.
  • Definitions of communities of interest are always open to varying interpretations and subject to lengthy adjudication in the legal system. Proposition 11 does not define communities of interest. But the new definition in Proposition 20 could restrict the commission’s choices, for example by making it difficult to see how a community made up of the various Asian and Latino populations in the San Gabriel Valley—multiracial, multilingual, and with wide disparities in income level, education, employment, and political awareness—could easily fit the proposed definition. As another example, a community of diverse racial, ethnic, social, economic, and educational components that organized around an environmental issue such as pollution from a port or an industrial brown field could also encounter challenges as to whether it fit the narrowed definition.
  • The League has actively supported the commission process by participating in the rulemaking for the selection of commissioners and the actual commission work, and we will continue to monitor progress and encourage Californians to participate.

PROPOSITION 27

  • Proposition 27 would kill the major redistricting reform voters just approved in 2008 and return the authority for redistricting to the backrooms of the Legislature.
  • Prop 27 would allow politicians to draw their own districts to protect their jobs, taking us back to the days when bizarrely shaped districts were drawn in secret, carving up neighborhoods and communities to keep incumbents safely in office.
  • Let’s keep the power with voters and the voter-approved independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
  • The politicians behind Prop 27 are attempting to mislead voters with bogus arguments about the redistricting commission and how it will operate. For example, they say Proposition 27 gives voters referendum rights, but voters already have those rights with the independent commission.

SAMPLE E-MAILS

See the text of sample emails that you can send to others in your address book.

PROPOSITION 20:

Join the League of Women Voters in opposing Proposition 20 on the November ballot. The League believes that this measure is well-intentioned but premature.

California is in the midst of a major reform of our redistricting process, with a new independent Citizens Redistricting Commission drawing the lines for state Senate and Assembly districts. Proposition 20 would significantly increase the commission’s workload by adding Congressional redistricting and shortening the time it would have to do its work. In addition, a new definition in this measure could make it harder for the commission to respect California’s diverse neighborhoods and communities as it draws district maps.

The commission should draw Congressional district lines in the future, but the new process should be fully implemented before the commission’s responsibilities are expanded so dramatically. Let’s give redistricting reform a chance to work the way the voters intended before we take the next step and add Congressional redistricting.

Vote NO on PROPOSITION 20.

Read more about the League’s recommendation.


PROPOSITION 27:

Vote no on Proposition 27. This measure would kill the major redistricting reform voters just approved in 2008 and return the authority for redistricting to the backrooms of the legislature.

Proposition 27 would allow politicians to draw their own districts to protect their jobs. It would take us back to the days when bizarrely shaped districts were drawn in secret, carving up neighborhoods and communities to keep incumbents safely in office.

Vote NO on Proposition 27 to keep the power with voters and the voter-approved independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Read more about the League’s recommendation.

SAMPLE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Note: Please adapt these letters to your own community and check your local paper’s word limit for a published letter.

PROPOSITION 27:

Editor:

Proposition 27 would kill the major redistricting reform voters just approved in 2008 and return the authority for redistricting to the backrooms of the legislature. It would eliminate the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and return the power to draw election districts to the politicians so they can once again draw districts that virtually guarantee their reelection.

This measure is designed by politicians so that they can draw their own districts to protect their jobs, taking us back to the days when bizarrely shaped districts were drawn in secret, carving up neighborhoods and communities to keep incumbents safely in office.

Keep the power with voters and the voter-approved independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Vote NO on Proposition 27 on November 2 to ensure voters have a real voice in elections.

Sincerely,

(your name)


PROPOSITION 20:

Editor:

Vote no on Proposition 20. Although this measure is well-intentioned, it is premature.

California is in the midst of a major reform of our redistricting process, with a new independent Citizens Redistricting Commission drawing the lines for state Senate and Assembly districts.

Proposition 20 would significantly increase the commission’s workload by adding Congressional redistricting while shortening the time it would have to do its work. I believe the commission should draw Congressional district lines in the future, but the new process should be fully implemented before the commission’s responsibilities are expanded so dramatically.

In addition, a new definition in this measure could make it harder for the commission to respect California’s diverse neighborhoods and communities as it draws district maps.

Let’s give redistricting reform a chance to work the way the voters intended, before taking the next step of adding Congressional redistricting. Vote NO on Proposition 20.

Sincerely,

(your name)