California counties must reform a corrupt redistricting process

OPINION AND COMMENT

Editorials and other opinion content offer viewpoints on issues important to our community and are independent of the work of our newsroom reporters.

Citizens filled the chambers of the SLO County Board of Supervisors in redistricting hearings.  The final map selected by a 3-2 vote of the board is now up for trial.

Citizens filled the chambers of the SLO County Board of Supervisors in redistricting hearings. The final map selected by a 3-2 vote of the board is now up for trial.

[email protected]

It was a popular slogan during the recent redistricting battle in San Luis Obispo County: voters should choose their politicians. Politicians should not choose their voters.

Yet the conservative majority on the SLO County Board of Supervisors did just that by approving what might be the most gerrymandered map in county history — one that gives Republicans a clear advantage in three of five districts, even though Democrats have a countywide majority.

As expected, a lawsuit was recently filed challenging the card’s legality, fueling controversy. But if the past is any indication, the issue will fade into the background in a year or two, once the outrage subsides.

It can’t happen.

If we don’t address this now – and make no mistake, it’s a powerful tool to disenfranchise voters – we’re only putting it off for another 10 years, when the next census numbers come out. .

We need a remedy in place in the near future, and it should be statewide; voters in every California county are entitled to fair representation.

The safest solution is to require each county to appoint independent redistricting commissions that include representatives from all demographic groups.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s fairer than what just happened in several counties in California.

Although the issue was particularly heated in San Luis Obispo County, there was major opposition to the redistricting decisions in mound, santa cruz, Fresno and Riverside counties, to name a few.

Unless something is done, we can expect the same thing every 10 years.

Letting politicians redraw their own constituency boundaries makes no sense. This allows any political party in power at the time to manipulate the map to favor their own candidates.

It’s a blatant conflict of interest, and yet it’s perfectly legal.

But there is some hope: at least the state of California has moved away from this corrupt model.

Thanks to voters, state legislators no longer set the boundaries of their own districts. A Citizens Redistricting Commission is now redrawing the lines for the Senate and State Assembly districts and for the U.S. Congressional districts. The 14-member commission is made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and four unaffiliated voters.

A proposed state law in 2019 would have required counties with populations over 400,000 to also appoint redistricting commissions, but the governor. Gavin Newsom vetoed.

He argued that this could be a burden on the state budget, since counties could demand reimbursement to comply with a new mandate. And he noted that counties could voluntarily appoint redistricting commissions or advisory committees.

It was a horrible call from Newsom.

The state should not skimp on ensuring the integrity of our elections.

Nor should it rely on voluntary compliance. In this hyperpartisan climate, even at the local level, some politicians will stop at nothing to cling to power.

Last year, only a handful of counties chose to appoint independent commissions to redraw the lines, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Others have appointed advisory committees to gather public testimony and make recommendations to supervisors.

San Luis Obispo County did neither.

But even if a fair and balanced advisory committee had been appointed, there is no guarantee that the majority of the board would have accepted its recommendations.

No, the only way to ensure that the process is as fair as possible is to remove it completely from the hands of elected officials.

Voters deserve it.

Politicians too, for that matter. Withdrawing from the process means they can escape blame for any decisions made.

State lawmakers are expected to reinvigorate efforts to make redistricting mandatory, but this time it shouldn’t be limited to counties with more than 400,000 residents.

Additionally, county supervisors should pledge to voluntarily relinquish the power to redraw their own districts, should a statewide effort fail.

It’s time to act. If we wait four or five years to demand reform, that almost guarantees that nothing will change.

The elections are approaching, which gives us the opportunity to know if the candidates are ready to abandon a system which undermines our democracy.

If they are not, they do not deserve and should not receive our support.

Modesto Bee Related Stories

Comments are closed.