This position paper out today from three groups that claim to represent the interests of women and minorities gives their reasons for opposing Proposition 77, the redistricting reform initiative.
Their main beef seems to be a sense that a panel of three retired judges won't care enough about drawing lines that create a Legislature reflecting the state's diversty. Never mind that the 1990s, under lines drawn by the state Supreme Court rather than the Legislature, saw the greatest increase ever in the number of women and minorities elected to the statehouse. In decades past, white (and minority) lawmakers conspired to draw lines for partisan or incumbent protection without regard to their effect on minorities, and sometimes even with the knowledge that the boundaries would inhibit the election of minorities.
Some day we will outgrow the notion that we need to draw political boundaries that pack members of particular ethnic groups together under the repugnant assumption that the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes dictates how you think about public policy. It's odd that the 1991 boundaries actually produced districts in which Latinos were able to get elected without the lines having been gerrymandered for ethnic bias. And most of the Latinos who won in such supposedly "white" districts were Republicans. But now some people insist on clinging to the notion that Latinos can only win when enough Latinos are packed into a district to elect "one of their own."
One amusing part of this paper is that it attacks the proposed requirement that any new plan be ratified by the voters, saying such a vote would be cumbersome, confusing and subject to manipulation by interest groups. Yet the official campaign against 77, which is distributing this paper today, is trying to tell voters that the measure deprives them of their right to vote on new boundaries (until they are already put in place).
The truth is that the real opponents of 77 are the far left and the far right who want to maintain their grip on power in the California Legislature and protect the ability of incumbents to pick their voters rather than letting voters pick their politicians. Maldef, the League of Women Voters and the Asian-Pacific American Legal Center are aiding and abetting that plot by their opposition to this measure.
If 77 goes down, don't hold your breath waiting for the League's friends in the Legislature to propose the perfect reform these groups say they would support.
UPDATE: Eugene Lee, attorney for the Asian-Pacific American Legal Center, begs to differ. In this letter Lee says the groups are not "aiding and abetting" the cause of incumbents but merely holding out for a better redistricting reform plan.