The Other Big Prop In California, Ctd

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A reader writes:

Regarding the post of your reader’s comments on Prop 20, I would respectfully say the reader’s logic is flawed. Boiling the argument down, the reader cheers the passage of Prop 20 saying, “hopefully, this will take the politics out of the process, at least somewhat, and I can have an actual representative for the first time in 16 years.” For starters, there is no way to draw district boundaries in a way that “takes the politics out of the process.”  All Prop 20 does is to hand this inherently political process off to a different group of people … a group of people that are not in any way directly accountable for their actions in contrast with legislators (who are).

As for the claim that your readers has not had “an actual representative,” that is absurd.

This person has been represented and their member of Congress has been quite in step with the majority of voters in that district.  The notion that people are disenfranchised or not represented by the members in their gerrymandered districts is simply not true.  Are district boundaries drawn in odd shapes so as to give one party or another an advantage?  Yes.  But it is also true that another one of the key reasons we have so many “deep red” and “deep blue” districts (see Bruce Oppenheimer’s work on this) is that Democrats live near other Democrats and Republicans live near other Republicans for a variety of demographic reasons that are not too hard to figure out.

The commenter’s district, the 33rd congressional district, is not even one of the more bizarre shapes.  Take a look at CA-23 (Lois Capps’s district).  It has frequently been referred to as the “ribbon of shame,” a long, skinny coastal district on the Central Coast.  But does this district represent a “community of interest?”  Sure.  You could argue (quite reasonably) that people in southern part of the 23rd district have more in common with people in the northern part of that district (very far away) than they do with people 10 miles to their east.  That’s not a crazy argument to make.

The point is there is no way to take the politics out of whatever district boundary decision is made.  It will always be “political.”  Indeed, the problem with voters in California is they too often try to “take the politics” out of things that are inherently political.  And we just tie ourselves in knots in all sorts of insane ways.  Given that, I’d just as soon have my elected representatives (who are accountable at the ballot box) making these decisions.

Another writes:

Like your reader, I live in CA-33, except I'm in Yoshi's tail. I would guess your reader in Yoshi's head is about an hour away from me. He or she neglected to mention that since we're taken for granted as safe liberals, Diane Watson never had to campaign. I've been in her district for 10 years and never heard from her about anything. Same with Karen Bass. Why waste the effort? As a result, her opponent was the only Republican I voted for yesterday - just in protest.


Florida had two propositions regarding districting, one for Congressional seats, and one for the state legislature. Both passed. I don't think they were as well thought out as California Prop 20, but hopefully they'll be useful.