Rose Institute’s Johnson and Pitney on California Gerrymandering

A recent article in the Whittier Daily News quoted Rose Institute Fellows Douglas Johnson and Jack Pitney discussing the prevalence of gerrymandering in California. The article is titled “Gerrymandering keeps California politicians safe” and was published on October 2. It discusses how, despite strong anti-incumbent feelings across the country, many California politicians look relatively safe thanks to years of gerrymandering districts.

According to Pitney, “there is a lot of dissatisfaction in California, but it doesn’t have a specific place to go. Californians are ticked off about the federal government. Californians are ticked off about the state government…They don’t have an outlet for that frustration. Some voters may just stay home. Some may grumble on their way to the polls.”

Johnson agrees, saying that “is a fundamental failure of democracy. When voters change their opinions and loyalties, the people who are elected should change to reflect that. And in California, that does not happen.” Johnson does see hope for change, however, through the “recently established redistricting body that puts an independent commission in charge of drawing legislative lines. He has his eye on the fate of two propositions on the November ballot – one that would expand the commission’s duties, another that would eliminate it.”

Pitney and Johnson also discussed the difficulty the Tea Party has had in gaining a significant foothold in California. Pitney points out that “a state Senate district in California has more people than the entire state of South Dakota.” Johnson adds that “trying to organize anything grass roots to influence even an Assembly district election is a much larger challenge in California than anywhere else…it’s a real challenge for any grass-roots effort.”

The article also refers to the recent Rose Institute studies which found that five to 10 districts in each category – state Senate, state Assembly and Congress – would be competitive if fair districts were drawn in 2001, instead of the incumbent-protection bipartisan gerrymander in California today.

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