Winston Churchill is famous for commenting that democracy is
the worst system of government, except for all the others.  Well, for those critics of reapportionment by
legislation, we may have stumbled on something worse-reapportionment by the

Let me stipulate that I am not a cheerleader for leaving
reapportionment solely in the hands of legislators. I think that the last
incumbents-only reapportionment was a big mistake.  That said, this cure may be worse than the

Reapportionment is complex and tricky stuff.  It’s easy to draw compact districts with
equal population, but those districts are likely to result in the
disenfranchisement of some constituencies and wholesale disregard for Voting
Rights Act standards.  Following
municipal and county boundaries sounds good but may end up leaving some
socio-economic groups stranded in districts where they have no voice.

The new rules of the game exclude party registration and
past voting patterns as criteria for drawing districts. But what are the fair
and just measurements and standards that can replace them?  Neat, compact districts may fit together like
pieces at LEGOLAND, but they don’t necessarily advance fair representation or

The only qualification for serving as a Reapportionment
Commission member, staffer or consultant seems to be a total lack of
qualifications and experience.  By
excluding almost everyone who has been part of the political process, the
reapportionment initiative has relegated the important task of drawing
legislative and congressional districts to a group of amateurs who don’t
represent and aren’t accountable to the electorate. Paul McKaskle, who drew the
lines for the Supreme Court Masters in the 1970s and 1990s didn’t make the
grade to be either a member of the commission or a consultant.  By this logic, physicians are too tainted by
knowledge to be allowed to perform surgery. 

With no disrespect to the commissioners-who are undoubtedly
bright, honest and civic-minded people-their task is beyond their pay grade. It
has been said that if you put a group of monkeys in a room for endless hours,
they would eventually produce "Hamlet" by random chance.  I am not calling the commissioners monkeys. But
their plan is more likely to turn out like the movie flop, "Ishtar," than

The commission doesn’t have much time to get this right. If
they are able to produce a product, it is likely to end up in litigation.  My guess is that, after the whole business
runs around in circles for months on end, the courts will be forced to step in
once again.  With the clock running down,
current districts may survive for one more election cycle, after which the
courts will draw the new lines.  Maybe
Paul McKaskle will have a chance to do this reapportionment after all.

Douglas Jeffe is the
principal of Issues Management Network,
an LA-based public affairs firm representing corporations, nonprofit
organizations, trade associations and educational and research institutes.