Bill Cavala and the Redistricting Hall of Fame

My thanks to Bill Cavala for highlighting the Rose Institute’s “Redistricting Hall of Shame” website. Mr. Cavala clearly considers the maps posted on that site noteworthy enough to make it the latest target in his series of anti-reform columns. In our gallery of 18 districts, Bill only takes issue with one, AD 7. And he bases his entire column on the difference between census tracts and census blocks — though he misleads his readers about the real history of that difference. In 1991 the State Supreme Court chose to follow census tracts when drawing lines, so that civil rights groups and others following redistricting in California could analyze and propose maps. (In California in 1991, only the Rose Institute and the Legislature’s team had the expensive computers needed to use census block-level detail.) Tracts were not “outmoded,” rather they were the best available means at the time. And as even Mr. Cavala admits, the Court-drawn lines were drawn free of legislative influence. As a result, elections in the 1990s reflected the will of the voters: when voters swung Republican in 1994, the election winners swung Republican. As the state went more Democratic toward the end of the decade, so did the election winners.

Mr. Cavala says of the Court line-drawing team, “They paid little attention to city boundaries in their plan.” As everyone outside of the incumbent-protection spin machine knows, the Court focused on protecting communities, while the 2001 gerrymandering team focused on protecting incumbents. Any gerrymander that puts La Crescenta in the same Assembly district with Hesperia clearly is not focused on communities, even if it kept both of those individual communities intact.

In the case of AD 7, Mr. Cavala points out that his team kept all of Santa Rosa together. But Santa Rosa is the biggest city – by far – in Sonoma County. The 2001 gerrymander, unfortunately, keeps Santa Rosa together but takes it out of Sonoma County. That’s not much to brag about. The split of Sonoma County was not 1991’s finest moment, but the Court masters clearly worked hard to keep communities together.

In the end, the facts, maps and election results are clear. I encourage everyone interested to look for themselves. It is almost impossible to pick the “most extreme gerrymander” from this crowd, but AD 24 is definitely a leading contender:

2001 - Assembly District 24

See the 1991 version here.

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