The Redistricting Commission—Political Virgins Wanted

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Do you want do the most political job in California? You can apply—as long as you know almost nothing about politics.

California’s Redistricting Commission has a hunger for virgins. Political virgins. And so it’s asking you to apply if you’ve never really participated in politics. Because knowledge is too much of a burden if you’re doing the very political job of drawing lines. Indeed, redistricting is so partisan and political that the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that there is no redistricting too partisan that courts could intervened to stop it.

How virginal must you be?

You must not have been appointed or elected to office in California—or even run for office?

You must not be a donor of $2,500 to any California candidate in any calendar year.

You can’t have been a staffer to anyone in politics, or lobbied at the federal, state or local levels, or been involved in your party.

And more important, you can’t have been related to anyone who participated in politics in any of the above ways.

By relatives, the state refers to parents, siblings, spouses, even in-laws, or stepparents or stepchildren.

Does it matter that the redistricting commission consists of virgins? Perhaps. One allegation from the last redistricting was that Democrats managed to manipulate the virginal commissioners to draw lines in ways that served them. 

I think the allegation was overblown. But California’s decision—and voters approved this—to have amateurs do this work seems dangerous. Especially in a highly polarized world in which the states with which we often do battle have professionals, with the most sophisticated technology, drawing the lines.

And we have only virgins to defend us.

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