In the Redistricting Debate, Just the Facts, Please!

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

I’m hoping everyone is enjoying reading long-time Republican Tony Quinn and I battle it out here on Fox & Hounds and elsewhere on the relatively mundane subject of redistricting. In his last post, Mr. Quinn’s resorted to a personal attack on my character. But I’m not going there, and will keep this simple and factual.

There is an open legal question under Propositions 11 and 20 about how to achieve population equality. It is nothing new.

This issue has been raised as one that would need resolution throughout the Commission process. It was raised during the training for the three auditors who screened applicants. It was raised during the training for the first eight commissioners. And it was raised during training for the full commission.

There were new ambiguities in the law created by Propositions 11 and 20. First, they broadened other competing criteria. Second, they added the phrase “allowable by law” to the equal population standard. It is reasonable to read that as allowing more flexibility to maintain other criteria like minimizing city and county splits. It is reasonable to believe that was not the intent. It is certainly a reasonable discussion for the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The Findings and Purpose section of Proposition 27 (ultimately rejected by the voters) specifically made mention of the fact the current law could allow deviations up to 10%. Now reasonable people can disagree on that. But it is a reasonable disagreement.

Two personal notes:

On my redistricting background: I serve on the City of Sacramento’s redistricting commission. I was actively involved in the redistricting reforms considered by the legislature prior to the passage of Proposition 11. And I personally felt the effects of redistricting when my legislative seat in New Hampshire was eliminated by redistricting. And I have learned one absolute rule about redistricting: There are no absolute rules. Ambiguity and evolving standards are the rule, not the exception.

On the heat of the political rhetoric: One of the great myths in redistricting is that there is a perfect map that will make everyone happy. There will be tradeoffs. Some will have absolutely reasonable complaints about the final maps. Mr. Quinn, for example, has his partisan concerns, most of which have been roundly dismissed by redistricting experts.

However, in this environment, we all have to be careful with the tone of our rhetoric and assigning malicious intent to reasonable disagreements Last Thursday, the Commission had a discussion about potentially needing to add security for its meetings. They specifically mentioned threats the Commission had received were specifically inspired by posts on Fox & Hounds. That does nothing to further a fair redistricting process. They should stop.

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