Editor's note: There is no organized opposition to Proposition 40.
Allowing politicians to draw the lines that defined their legislative and congressional districts is the rough equivalent of asking teenagers to set their own curfews a fundamental conflict of interest that only gets worse as the night wears on. But for years, that was the way California's political parties did business, running a mutual protection scheme that created safe seats for Democrats and Republicans alike.
As a result, almost no candidate of either party had to expend much energy to win votes or make much effort to satisfy their constituents. The numbers told the story: In the three elections in our state leading up to 2008, 459 legislative seats were up for grabs, but only four changed hands from one party to the other.
So California voters took matters into their own hands. In 2008, voters revolted and passed Proposition 11, which took politicians out of the process of drawing lines for state Senate and Assembly districts and put in place the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to do the job instead. Two years later, they extended the commission's authority both to cover congressional seats by passing Proposition 20 and by rejecting Proposition 27, the first attempt by career politicians to scrap the newly drawn districts and restore the status quo.
That means we've already voted "yes" on redistricting reform three times. But the opponents haven't given up that easily. Not surprisingly, a number of incumbent officeholders weren't pleased with the new lines drawn by the independent commission. Why?
Because those newly competitive districts forced them to actually compete for votes to stay in office.
This year, they responded by placing yet another initiative Proposition 40 on the ballot to pressure voters to reject the new lines drawn for California's state Senate districts an attempt to get their old, noncompetitive districts back and be guaranteed re-election just like in the good old days.
The politicians who qualified Proposition 40 for the ballot have since abandoned their effort and are not campaigning for the referendum. But the problem is that because it is a referendum and not an initiative, a "yes" vote maintains the citizen's commission-drawn maps while a "no" vote invalidates them. When the list of initiatives on a ballot gets too long, and the issues too varied or convoluted, the average voter tends to reject anything unfamiliar and simply vote "no." As a result, understandably confused voters could overturn their own vote in support of these independent maps if they vote "no" on the measure.
Unfortunately, that could be the case on Nov. 6. Eleven state initiatives will confuse and confound many voters who will be driven to the polls by the higher-profile presidential election like a multiple-choice pop quiz for a class in which they didn't even realize they were enrolled. Once in the voting booth, Californians who have more question marks than convictions on a particular ballot measure are likely to vote against it.
When it comes to Proposition 40, that would be a grave mistake. Proposition 40 is critically important for upholding the will of the people to hold politicians accountable by keeping them out of the redistricting process.
It's a matter of making sure that voters are in control not politicians when deciding who gets elected. This measure will be overshadowed by flashier initiatives and tens of millions of dollars in TV ads for other causes, but voting "yes" on Proposition 40 amounts to nothing short of making sure every vote counts.
In simple terms, a "yes" vote on Proposition 40 will uphold the work done by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which was approved by voters to take the job of drawing political boundaries away from elected officials. Proposition 40 gets rid of back-room deals, holds politicians accountable and ensures our elected officials respond to the people they serve. It deserves more attention than it will get this season. There may be no initiative on the ballot more important to fixing what's broken in Sacramento.
That's why it is critically important that voters say "yes" to Proposition 40 and remind the politicians once again that voters deserve to choose their elected officials not the other way around.