Was the Last Redistricting Fair?

Co-Founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council

California’s Citizen Redistricting Commission is kicking off its second redistricting of California’s 120 state legislative, 53 congressional (the most of any state), and the four State Board of Equalization districts.

This is an apt time to recall Communist Dictator Joseph Stalin’s words: it is not who votes but who counts the votes that matter.

Californians have been frustrated for years. They imposed term limits on state legislators, recalled a governor, abolished party primaries, and, finally, took the drawing of districts away from legislators giving it to a Citizens Commission to get a less partisan legislature.

The Commission did exactly what the voters were attempting to end, another gerrymander.  The political drawing of lines to elect certain people.  Only this time, it didn’t protect all the legislators because those gerrymandering the lines had another objective: a racial gerrymander.

There was a publicly stated goal to create as many minority districts as possible.   (This was not in the initiative creating the Commission but added by the State Auditor and Commissioners.)

Theoretically, the Commission is bi-partisan, 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats and non-partisan containing 4 independents.

The Republican and Democrat legislative caucuses had some veto power but the Republicans wasted their vetoes on non-Republicans and the “Republicans” selected favored the racial gerrymander over fair districts.

But, California isn’t a lily white state and minorities should be eligible to be elected to office too, right?

That’s the liberal thesis that the best man or woman doesn’t win.  Only race determines who wins, ignoring the election of S. I. Hyakawa to the US Senate in “white” California and the election of the first Black since reconstruction to the US Senate from “white” Massachusetts.  And both had to win their Republican Party’s nominations before they were elected to the Senate by defeating white Democrats.

The State Auditor’s Office decided to disproportionately increase the number of minorities in the applicant pool from which the Commissioners would be chosen.

The Commission hired as Executive Director a self-proclaimed progressive friend of President Obama, and to draw the lines a staffer from a Democrat firm, and skipped using the attorney who had helped the California Supreme Court draw independent lines twice.

Then the Commission held hearings around the state and heard from city officials and regular people who didn’t want their cities to be broken up as they had been in past political gerrymanders.  They wanted their communities of interest to be protected and not be tossed in with people who shared none of their interests or issues.

To be honest, there were hearings at least in LA where Black politicians turned out crowds demanding that their congressman, by name, be given a district.

After the hearings, the Commission began drawing the lines.

They ignored the people wanting to keep their cities and communities of interest intact, and instead focused on drawing as many racial districts as possible.

They cut up the San Joaquin Valley based on race.  Packing as many whites into as few districts as possible.  (That wasn’t a stated goal but the effect of creating the minority districts.) Democrat Latino groups wanted to divide Kings County and pack Nunes and McCarthy into one district to create another Latino seat but the Commission felt it was a bridge too far.

At least they were consistent and not political or partisan.

Wrong!

Take LA as an example.  There were three Black congressmen but not enough Black voters to carve the three Black districts the Blacks and Democrats demanded.  So a potential majority Latino district was sacrificed to provide enough Latino voters to create three “safe” seats for Black congressmen.

But, if your goal is minority districts and not fair districts that was the right action because if they had followed the Federal Voting Rights Act and drawn one majority minority Black district, horror of horrors, there would have been a competitive district in the South Bay along the Coast.

The Voting Rights Act was designed by liberals to create more Black congressional districts (which it did) and create a legal basis to challenging redistricting plans that didn’t favor Democrats (which it did).

The California Redistricting Commission assured us that the Federal Voting Rights Act forced them to create these majority minority districts but then fell silent about not creating the one new Latino district that would have doomed some Black congressmen.  And the Blacks who had previously supported the Voting Rights Act pleaded with the Commission to NOT create a majority Black district.  Just cut up the Latinos, remove enough white voters and voila, there were three Black congressional districts.

In all honesty, this was the issue that tore the Commission apart.

Cities and citizens had begged the Commission to keep their South Bay patchwork quilt of small cities together.  The testimony was overwhelming and consistent from city to city.  To create the 3 Black districts required not only splitting the South Bay but splitting the individual cities themselves.

To paraphrase ancient history, some of the Commission members tore their cloaks in anguish about what was happening.  They then went into an illegal executive session where the public could not hear what was being hashed out.  When they reconvened in public, at least one of the members was crying and a number of the Republican Commissioners were ticked off.

The plan was rubber stamped.

But don’t take my word for it, read the San Jose Mercury article which recounts an investigative piece about how congressional Democrats manipulated the process to get their lines adopted

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