For years, we’ve listened to whining from Republicans about California’s unfair, gerrymandered Legislative and Congressional districts. “If only there were a fair reapportionment of voters,” so goes the argument. “Republicans would stand a fighting chance to fully represent the electorate in the state Legislature and Congress.”
Well, the bipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission, created by initiatives in 2008 and 2011 (with strong support from many in the GOP), has released its proposed district maps for the Assembly, state Senate, Board of Equalization and Congress and guess who’s whining still.
You got it. Republicans who have found themselves the “victim” of the dissonance between California’s population on the one hand and the GOP’s policies, candidates and rhetoric on the other. Here’s Exhibit A, from Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party:
The Commission created 40 districts where the Democrats are the largest party (75%), and 13 where Republicans hold the plurality (25%). [Sidenote: Of Californians who choose to register with one of the two major parties, 59% choose the Democrats (7,569,581) and 41% choose the Republican Party (5,307,411).]
While Democrats were given the greatest number of total seats (40 vs 13), Republicans were given greatest number of competitive districts, both in absolute and relative terms. Of the 40 districts where the Democrats are the largest party (“Democrat districts”), only two (5%) have a party registration advantage of under 5%, and 4 (10%) have an advantage of under 10%. Among the 13 districts where Republicans hold the plurality (“Republican districts”), 4 (30%) have a registration advantage under 5%, and 8 (62%) have an advantage under 10%.
The average registration advantage in the Democrat districts is 22.4%. In the Republican districts it is 12.1%.
No incumbent Democrat was drawn into a Republican district. Four Republicans were drawn into or are expected to run in districts where the Democrats are the largest party: Mssrs. Dreier, Lungren, Gallegly, and Denham.
The most heavily Republican district in the state will be the 52nd district, represented by Rep. Duncan Hunter. The district has a Republican registration advantage of 21.6%. Rep. Barbara Lee will hold the state’s most Democratic district: her party enjoys a 55.3% advantage in the 13th district.
Districts With No Ideology
We’ll set aside the gratuitous use of terms like “Democrat districts,” and the fact that the Redistricting Commission actually over-represented Republicans (by proportion of voter registration, Democrats (44%) should have had six members, Republicans (31%) four members and Decline-to-State and others (25%) four members) on the 14-member panel. We can also set aside Nehring’s utter dismissal of all those voters who are not registered in a major party.
What he’s complaining about is the partisan effect of the proposed new maps. And here’s a little secret, Ron. IT WASN’T THEIR JOB TO CONSIDER PARTY WHEN DRAWING DISTRICT BOUNDARIES!
That’s the whole point. As we explained last month in an exchange on the Spencer Roberts Wheelspinners Facebook group, after one commenter wrote that “reapportionment is supposed to draw districts that represent the overall political viewpoint of Californians:”
Reapportionment is supposed to be done without regard to party registration. It’s about representing one person, one vote, following certain guidelines, starting with the Voting Rights Act and then taking into account communities of interest, contiguous boundaries, etc.
Using party as a factor is what the Democrats (with help from Republican incumbents) did for years. The problem for the Republican Party is that it has a demographic problem: Latinos, especially, reject them (because of their stands on various issues) and that’s a problem for the GOP when reapportionment is done fairly. It is 100% wrong to say “reapportionment is supposed to draw districts that represent the overall political viewpoint of Californians.” In fact, it should be blind to peoples’ political point of view.
Here Comes the Judge
Nehring should know this. He should know it was Chief Justice Earl Warren who wrote:
Population is, of necessity, the starting point for consideration and the controlling criterion for judgment in legislative apportionment controversies. A citizen, a qualified voter, is no more nor no less so because he lives in the city or on the farm. This is the clear and strong command of our Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. This is an essential part of the concept of a government of laws and not men. This is at the heart of Lincoln’s vision of “government of the people, by the people, [and] for the people.” The Equal Protection Clause demands no less than substantially equal state legislative representation for all citizens, of all places as well as of all races.
N.B.: No mention of party registration or political ideology.
In fact, about the only complaint we’ve seen so far that might have validity is one that won’t do the GOP whiners much good.
It’s from Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, who argued: “We believe the Commission did not completely embrace this unprecedented opportunity to ensure that the state’s growing Latino population can achieve full and fair representation in California’s democracy.”
This is tricky because while illegal immigrants count in terms of population, they are not citizens of voting age. That’s a big deal in determining who gets counted when using population as “the starting point for consideration and the controlling criterion for judgment in legislative apportionment.”
A Three-Fifths Plan for CA?
A small historical footnote from the Calbuzz Department of Antiquities, Crackers and Clam Chowder: counting people for the purposes of apportionment has been a problem in the U.S. since its newborn days.
At the Philadelphia Convention on 1787, delegates from the slave states argued that slaves should be counted for the purposes of distributing taxes and apportionment of members of the House of Representatives. Since slaves couldn’t vote, slaveholders would have increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. Delegates opposed to slavery wanted to count only free inhabitants to limit the influence of the slave states.
The final compromise, in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, was to add to “the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service to a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxes, three fifths of all other persons.”
It wasn’t until after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1865), that slaves were counted as whole individuals and not three-fifths of a person with passage of Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1868) which states “Representatives shall be apportioned …counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed…”
As far as we know, no one has proposed counting illegal immigrants as three-fifths. But we haven’t checked that closely in Arizona.
Coming tomorrow: In Part II of our Remap Special Report, Calbuzz looks at the numbers.