Reapportionment – the decennial re-drawing of boundaries for legislative and congressional districts – is about as exciting to most people as watching the C-Span feed from the House Committee on Agriculture.
But wait! When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission releases proposed maps for new districts today, things could actually get interesting.
This time, instead of balancing districts by party registration, by voting blocs and by strongholds for various incumbents – as the system has nearly always operated – there are two principal considerations: 1) one-person-one-vote, or equal numeric representation and 2) the Voting Rights Act, which requires that historically underrepresented communities (like Latinos) cannot be diluted.
Contiguous districts, compactness, communities of interest – all of these kinds of concerns, even though called for by various court decisions, are secondary — which leaves folks in certain neighborhoods unhappy, but without much recourse.
What could matter is this: if, when final districts are adopted, some Republicans in the Assembly and/or Senate are thrown into the same districts, and if those districts are no longer safe GOP seats, it’s just possible that Gov. Jerry Brown might suddenly find himself with a reluctant Republican ally or two in his quest to find a budget solution.
It’s an outside possibility, we know. But not impossible.
The independent redistricting commission, created when voters approved Proposition 11 in 2008, was set up to end the inherent conflict of interest of having legislators draw their own district lines. That historic practice often resulted in seats that were either very safe Democratic or very safe Republican.
Overall, the previous system favored partisans from the extreme wings of both parties over moderates, fueling gridlock in a Legislature populated more by ideologues than pragmatists.
Just five days after the new proposed district maps are released, comes the constitutional deadline to pass the state budget – a deadline that has been historically missed with impunity. But with the passage of Prop. 25 last year, legislators will stop getting paid if the budget is not passed on time.
Democrats could, under the new law, pass the budget with a majority vote, obviating the Republicans altogether. But they’d still need two-thirds to extend or increase taxes.
After seeing their proposed new districts, a few Republican lawmakers just might reexamine their blanket opposition to taxes. With more Democrat-leaning Latinos in their districts, for example, some may decide to exchange ideological purity for pragmatic deal-making.
Or so Brown hopes.
Why Hold Back?
One place an election is taking place in the existing district is LA’s 36th CD, where Democrat Janice Hahn is up against Craig Huey, the Republican who outpolled Debra Bowen in the top-two primary. Seems like the Hahn campaign (Garry South, we recognize your tactics against Dick Riordan) decided to unload the heavy stuff right off the bat, not taking any chances.
Who wants to criminalize abortion, euthanize old people and wipe out family planning? You guessed it, poor Mr. Huey.
What looks like a walk-over for Hahn is, it appears, in part a function of the ideological purity of the GOP primary voters. As one Demorcatic operative tells Calbuzz privately: