League of Women Voters Endorses Voters First Initiative

Writing in the Capitol Weekly for the League of Women Voters, Janis Hirohama strongly endorses Proposition 11, over the current system, which she describes as dysfunctional:

Under the current system, legislators have the power to draw their own districts, thereby allowing the politicians to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. Not surprisingly, 99 percent of incumbents are reelected. The result is that legislators are not accountable and not responsive to the people they represent. They are therefore not inclined to effectively address the issues that matter most to the voters. This contributes to the paralyzing partisan gridlock that prevents effective action by the legislature on the state budget crisis, health care reform, the impending water crisis, and other crucial issues facing our state. It is clear that the current system is not working for Californians.

More significantly, Hirohama also addresses the minority district issue which has been the source of many criticisms leveled at Proposition 11. As she notes, the current system merits criticism for how it handles minority voting blocs as well.

Prop. 11 incorporates strong, specific provisions to protect our communities and the rights of minority voters. Under the current system, all too often redistricting has resulted in communities and neighborhoods being broken up in order to benefit incumbent politicians. For example, in the 2001 redistricting, the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County was split into four separate Senate districts, diluting the strength of Asian American voters in that community. The Watts area of South Los Angeles was broken across three districts. Similar gerrymandering took place in San Jose and other California communities. Prop. 11 would put an end to this kind of slicing and dicing. It will ensure that the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) has top priority in the list of criteria for drawing districts, writing that protection into the state Constitution. And certain mapping criteria, such as nesting and compactness, can never trump compliance with the VRA or consideration of communities, neighborhoods, and geographic integrity.

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