California's Prop 77 is an amendment to the state constitution that reforms how legislative districts are drawn. Under existing law, the legislature draws the boundaries of all statewide legislative districts, as is done in many, if not the majority of states. "Redistricting" is mandated by the federal constitution following the decennial federal population census, and usually provides incumbent politicians with the opportunity to draw political boundaries that favor their re-election, or at least the election of a member of their party to their seat. In fact, in the last election (November 2004) not a single legislative or Congressional seat in the state of California changed political party.
Under the current system, "gerrymandering" by the legislature reduces competitiveness and increases reelection rates of incumbents. This gerrymandering has resulted in average reelection rates in the US House and Senate of an average of approximately 93% and 81%, respectively, between 1964 and 2002.
Prop 77 seeks to change this system so that a three-member panel of retired state and/or federal judges would be empowered to draw up all statewide legislative districts. The recommendation would then be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters. Having read the entire text of the bill, there are many checks and balances that ensure that those in power will not in control of the process, which, under the current system is a huge conflict of interest.
The panel will be required to create boudaries that are contiguous, are geographically sensible, and that will strive to ensure that existing city and county boundaries are used whenever possible. If the voters reject the redistricting plan, then a new panel will be formed who will re-draft the proposal, which will again go to the voters. This process repeats until a plan is accepted.
I strongly support the passage of Prop 77.
Keywords: Prop 77