Schwarzenegger Redistricting Plan Could Cost Democrats Six Assembly Seats and Two in the Senate2 min read

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Today’s Contra Costa Times citing unnamed “observers”, fills in the blanks in the Governor’s claim that his redistricting initiative will make Legislative contests more “competitive”.

It could cost the Democrats six seats in the Assembly and two in the Senate, diluting Democratic control of the Legislature.

So why should Democrats support this change?

Republicans have about 34% of the state’s registration. Why not simply allocate them 27 seats (34%) of the Legislative seats. Start the Democrats with 36 seats (their proportionate share) and arrange the remaining 17 seats so the registration is equal to the two-party take (45-34). This would provide the Democrats with a 53 seat upside and only one Republican needed to pass the budget or raise taxes on multi-millionaires.

Republicans would need to win 14 of the 17 to control the Assembly – not an impossible job if they stop recruiting extremists whose views are at odds with the people.

I could accomplish this reform – sufficient competition to make both parties sweat blood – with only a few changes.

Eliminate the need for contiguity. Most people don’t know what it means anyway (it means you must have all part of the seat attached to itself – no ‘islands’
This would allow the use of densely Democratic parts of the state in densely Republican areas (Eastern San Francisco and Southern Placer County).

• Define “communities of interest” as groups of disparate voters with nothing in common.

• Forget the requirement that city and county boundaries be respected.

• Ignore the requirements of the voting rights act so that pockets of Democratic voting minority groups can be added to GOP Anglo voting blocks to make the result “more competitive”

• Forgo the use of maps so that the media can’t see how ugly one has to draw seats to make them “competitive.”

I could do this, but I won’t. This initiative would exclude me and every other experienced line drawer on the Democratic side. As I read it, however, it would allow Rose Institute line-drawers to be hired by the Commission.

And Kathy Feng, line-drawer extraordinaire for the Asian Pacific Legal Foundation in 2001 and now Executive Director of Common Cause, sponsor of the Schwarzenegger scheme.

Bill Cavala was Deputy Director of the Assembly Speaker’s Office of Member Services where he worked for over 30 years.

He attended undergraduate and graduate school in the 1960’s and received a doctorate in political science at UC Berkeley. He taught political science at UC Berkeley during the 1970’s while he worked part-time for the State Assembly.

Cavala left teaching at UC Berkeley and went to work for Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 1981 until his tenure as Speaker ended in 1995, and he has worked for his five successors as Speaker up to and including Speaker Fabian Nunez.

Mr. Cavala manages election campaigns for Democratic candidates.

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