Mark Kleiman on why you should vote against 77

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As I noted previously, the basic redistricting algorithm that Prop 77 requires appears to be fundamentally sound. On the other hand, it's clearly being promulgated for political advantage. How to reconcile these two? Check out Mark Kleiman's post from Oct 17, where he reposts a reader's argument that it's the contiguity guidelines for the redistricting that are biased.
My "no" vote is predicated on the following section of the proposed law:

(f) District boundaries shall conform to the geographic boundaries of a county, city, or city and county to the greatest extent practicable. In this regard, a redistricting plan shall comply with these criteria in the following order of importance:

(1) create the most whole counties possible,

(2) create the fewest county fragments possible,

(3) create the most whole cities possible, and

(4) create the fewest city fragments possible, except as necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section.

(g) Every district shall be as compact as practicable except to the extent necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section. With regard to compactness, to the extent practicable a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant.

This is a recipe not for competitive districts, but for neutralizing Democratic votes as much as possible by concentrating them in urban-county bantustans.

Just look at this table if the effect isn't immediately clear. LA, Santa Clara, Alameda and SF would be around 20 CDs with 65/35 D/R splits. SD, Orange, San Berdoo, Riverside, Sacto and Contra Costa would be around 18 CDs with 45/55 D/R splits.

As an under-the-radar attempt to defang California's urban Democratic voters, it's crass partisan, cultural and class warfare of the worst kind. Ugh, ptui.

Uggabugga has a nice graphic showing how "compact districting" may not be as "neutral" as it sounds. Steven Hill at Mother Jones looks at the issue more systematically: with Democrats concentrated in urban areas, Republicans can win a majority of the seats with a minority of the votes.

This actually raises the interesting policy question about what "fair" means. The reason we have geographic districting rather than e.g., completely at large elections or random assignment is that we imagine that people who live close together have aligned interests and so should end up voting for the same representatives. It's not clear (at least to me) that any geographically oriented districting scheme can simultaneously satisfy the goal of having electoral outcomes that mirror the population at large.

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"urban-county bantustans". Nice phrasing!

So the politics of democratic demographics have to
be respected when redistricting? That is the problem
in a nutshell!

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