"Voices of Reform" call for redistricting reform in California

Recently, a number of folks associated with the Commonwealth Club’s “Voices of Reform” project signed a letter to Governor Schwartzenegger urging him to keep the ball rolling on redistricting reform in California. I’m one of those hundred or so folks!

The heart of the letter to the Governor included this joint “Statement in Support of Redistricting Reform”:

We believe that the inherent conflict of interest that results from legislators directly determining the shape of the districts for which they or other members of their party will compete in future elections contributes to the erosion of public confidence in government, undermines genuine political representation and has the potential to negatively affect the quality of public policy.

Therefore, we support steps to eliminate this conflict of interest and related incentives to create non-competitive, safe seats, while strengthening the overall integrity of the legislative redistricting process.

Achieving these goals should include, at a minimum, the following actions:

1) Establish a process that is representative of the state’s diversity for appointing an independent redistricting commission balanced in partisan representation;

2) Establish a transparent and inclusive process for the independent commission to integrate public comment into the redistricting process. This should include public meetings throughout the state and timely public access to any substantive material under consideration by the commission;

3) Ensure the independent commission complies fully with the Voting Rights Act and equal population requirements; and

4) Ensure clear guidelines are established directing the commission to respect traditional redistricting criteria including (but not limited to) respect for communities of similar social, cultural, ethnic, geographic, or economic interest, respect for city and county boundaries, and formation of contiguous districts.

Anyone who has ever tried to develop consensus language on a subject as touchy as redistricting can guess at how hard and long the process was that led about a hundred prominent California leaders, from all across the political spectrum and representing all walks of California life, to agree to the language in this letter. It just shows how hard the “Voices of Reform” staff works (and how good they), and how important this issue is to many prominent Californians.

“Voices of Reform” maintains a very informative website, and I’ll update as additional elements of this project’s reform agenda are elaborated.