It seemed like a great idea at the time. In fact, I voted for it. Instead of letting those scurrilous state legislators draw their own district lines, often gerrymandering their way into a guaranteed win, let the people do it! And it shall be called California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission!
After all, a citizen sounds much more trustworthy than a legislator. Besides, you only have a take a look at my hometown of Sonoma for an example of legislators-gone-wild – half the town is represented by Lynn Woolsey in Congress, the other half by Mike Thompson. Please note: Sonoma has an area of just one square mile. (More on that.)
Needless to say, it can never be that simple. In order to make these citizens as impartial as humanly possible, the requirements are stringent (nobody who has ever worked for a state or federal legislator…no one who has worked for a campaign or given a lot to a campaign or…you get the idea). Not to mention, you have to enjoy a level of job flexibility that allows you to work on the commission anywhere from 10 to 40 hours a week and travel up and down the state over a period of eight months. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Retired, white, male lawyers. All of them.
So here we are, just four days away from the deadline to apply and needless to say, the applicant pool for the first ever Citizens Redistricting Commission isn’t quite a perfect portrait of California. There are two male applicants for a every woman and the ethnic balance skews heavily white (Latinos, who make up 36% of the state are practically MIA). All of which somewhat throws into question whether the commission process will be all that much better than the hackneyed, closed-door maneuvering that came before it.
Few call me an optimist, but I am still hopeful that we the people can pull this off. Here are some graphs for inspiration – everyone who isn’t a white male from the Bay Area over the age of 60 (sorry, dad!), get your application in!
Find more info at www.wedrawthelines.org and track the applications to date!