In a recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, an attorney in Washington whose specialty is election law, comes out in support of proposition 11. Stephanopoulos talks about the quirkiness of having citizens drawing the lines versus professional independent line drawers, but says that citizens would do a much better job than current methods.
What’s good about Proposition 11 is that it would make California’s elections more competitive. At present, the Legislature’s self-interested politicians design their own districts. The unsurprising results were demonstrated by the 2004 and 2006 general elections, when not a single incumbent lost and not a single seat changed parties. No one knows how adept ordinary citizens would be at drawing district lines. But they surely could do no worse than the foxes that currently guard California’s henhouse.
It’s the citizen commissioner idea that makes this proposition eccentric. In other states, redistricting commissions are typically staffed with legislative appointees, retired judges or election law experts — not ordinary people. Exempting congressional districts is unexpected as well. If it is so important for elections to be competitive, one might ask, why shouldn’t federal races follow the new rules too?