Wednesday, November 24, 2010


How California does reapportionment

by Larry Geller

Reapportionment can have incalculable repercussions in how a state is governed. As it is often carried out, it is a profoundly anti-democratic process in which representatives choose their constituents rather than the other way around.

In Hawaii, Democrats are firmly in the driver’s seat, and so in charge of reapportionment, and thus assured of retaining that driver’s seat for the next decade.

They don’t need to Gerrymander to lock out Republicans, that’s already been accomplished. We have little danger of experiencing anything like the Republican obstructionism that has paralyzed our national government. This is a great oversimplification, but politics here really is different.

The Republicans still left in the Hawaii state House are often significant contributors to the lawmaking process rather than obstructionists. In the Senate, there is only one obstructionist left. Yes, out-of-state readers, we have only one Republican senator left out of 25. Of course, there are those Democrats who espouse values that might make them Republicans elsewhere, but still, Hawaii’s legislature is a different form of politics.

It’s also one that can produce some quality legislation. I’m thinking of our Prepaid Healthcare Act, which could have been a national model, had there not been so many obstructionists (of both parties) running Congress.

Back to reapportionment.

California is also a strange place where experimentation may be the rule rather than the exception. The people have the power of the ballot initiative, so it may happen that legislators find they are in that driver’s seat but don’t control the steering wheel.

Here is how California will do reapportionment:

A majority of voters approved a proposition denying the right of the state legislature to draw the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts. From now on, the districts will be drawn by 14 ordinary citizens, men and women whose names have been drawn from a hat -- not exactly a hat, just one of those spinning cages full of pingpong balls they use in lotteries.

…Proposition 20 in this month's election won the approval of 50.9 percent of voters. The proposition completed a series of ballot measures mandating that election districts -- from school boards to Congress -- will be redrawn by 14 randomly selected citizens. There were 30,000 applicants for these $300-a-day jobs, and the lottery wheel spun for the first time last Thursday and the first balls that popped out named eight of the 14: a bookstore owner, an attorney, a retired engineer, a marketing consultant, a caregiver, an insurance executive, a guy who tracks consumer trends and an activist who represents low-income tenants. They will select the other six members of the Citizens Redistricting Commission.   [Yahoo News,While you were sleeping, California made new election laws, 11/23/2010]

We’re not exactly sleeping here in Hawaii. Common Cause Hawaii is closely following reapportionment issues. CCHI has an active local chapter and a strong executive director. Nikki Love is also a super-tweeter. So if you’d like to follow the reapportionment issue, transparency in government, election issues and a lot more, follow @CommonCauseHI on Twitter.

Or just check into that link every so often if you’re not on Twitter. Good government info 140 characters at a time.

When it comes to government, it’s nice to know that someone is watching. And tweeting.


this whole discussion makes the Philippine electoral process look like an offshoot of the Inquisition

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