The Conversation

A weekly discussion of a topic important to Californians

October 4, 2008
Drawing fair political boundaries
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This week's topic: redistricting.

Should legislators draw their own political districts, or should that job be given to an independent citizen's commission?

Daniel Curtin, director of the California Conference of Carpenters, favors Proposition 11, which would create a 14-member commission to draw district lines, following a strict set of guidelines that would prohibit lines that favor or discriminate against any politician or political party.

Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from Monterey and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton also supports Proposition 11. Panetta says it would reduce partisanship by creating districts more likely to elect independent-minded moderates.

Steven Reyes, a Los Angeles lawyer and former counsel to the Mexican American Legal and Educational Foundation, agrees. Reyes helped write Prop. 11 and says it would help minorities by preventing the Legislature from splitting up communities to protect incumbents and party interests.

But Arturo Vargas of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, says the measure would hurt minorities because the commission would not necessarily be diverse. Vargas also says the process, by allowing legislators to continue to draw congressional lines, would force watchdogs to monitor both the commission and the Legislature at the same time, spreading them thin.

And Eric McGhee, a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California, shares the results of a recent PPIC report concluding that California's gerrymandered districts are not to blame for the partisan polarization in the Legislature. That trait, McGhee writes, was there before the current districts were drawn and would likely remain even if Prop. 11 were to pass.

Who should draw the lines?

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About The Conversation

Welcome to The Conversation, where our goal is to provoke and sustain spirited and civil debate on issues central to life in California. I'll offer a topic and starting point for a discussion each week, but we need you to carry it forward from there. Please dive in and join the conversation.
-- Daniel Weintraub

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