Rampant Corruption in California Redistricting

How left-wing activists stacked the deck in favor of Golden State Democrats


Over the summer, the web site I edit, CalWatchdog, published a series of articles documenting the way that the political left exploited the redistricting process in California to assure strong gains for the Democratic Party. The report included an exclusive interview with a redistricting commission member who alleged partisan behavior by his supposedly non-partisan commission colleagues, but the series didn't cause much attention in the media, the Capitol, or among the public. Apparently, no one was surprised that a commission formed with the best of intentions—i.e., taking backroom political deal-making out of the process by which political lines were drawn—was cynically manipulated to create a partisan advantage.

But the story is getting renewed life now that the ProPublica investigative journalism web site published a new report called "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission." If you weren't cynical about the state of California's political system before reading it, you will be now. It reveals several lessons for California political observers, ranging from the ruthlessness of the state's powerful Democratic Party, to the utter incompetence of the state's fading Republican Party. It also reminds us that even the best-intentioned good-government reforms may make matters worse if proponents of reform don't grapple with political reality.

Calwatchdog's series by reporter John Hrabe focused on the deep partisan interests of one of the commission's supposedly non-partisan members, Gabino Aguirre, and the successful way he abused the public trust to secure his desired political results. Following the Hrabe series, redistricting expert Tony Quinn wrote in Fox & Hounds:

Dante condemned those who betray a public trust to the hottest place in hell. My candidate for Dante' inferno this week is State Auditor Elaine Howle, who created the poll of candidates that formed the Citizens Redistricting Commission …. Commissioner Gabino Aguirre managed to obtain a Senate district for his friend, Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams, in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Aguirre made a campaign contribution to Williams after he was in the running for membership on the commission, and then helped craft the new Williams district without disclosing his contribution to anyone. He also helped draw the district intended to end the career of GOP Sen. Tony Strickland. Aguirre hosted a fund raiser in 2008 for the candidate running against Strickland's wife … . These are the kind of people Howle thought were 'impartial,' the primary criterion for a commissioner.

In my column about the left's redistricting victory, I quoted former Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel, who said:  "The Democrats knew what they were doing, and Republicans were asleep at the switch." People shrugged or dismissed our allegations as the work of disgruntled conservatives. But now ProPublica, which tends to lean toward the left, came up with equally damning conclusions based on a look at email correspondence, internal memos, interviews with participants and an analysis of the final district maps:

Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee … members were told to begin 'strategizing about potential future district lines,' according to another email. The citizens' commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party's interests. When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party.

The Democrats played hard-ball politics, undermined the spirit of redistricting, and caught the Republican Party flat-footed. Many Republicans I talked to during the redistricting situation viewed Democratic gains as inevitable, which no doubt explains their lack of effort in combating what the Democrats were doing. But there was no excuse for their lack of political skill and inaction.

As ProPublica reported, "Statewide, Democrats had been expected to gain at most a seat or two as a result of redistricting. But an internal party projection says that the Democrats will likely pick up six or seven seats in a state where the party's voter registrations have grown only marginally."

Instead of losing a small number of seats, Republicans will be losing big because Democrats played them for fools. Wrote ProPublica, "What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old." Republicans couldn't match this cynical tactic, but it's a tactic that they should have seen coming and should have geared up to combat. They seemed to accept their losses as a fait accompli.

Many moderate Republicans and good-government reformers didn't realize that the state's highly sophisticated Democratic machine would rig the game so strongly in their own favor. Good government activists, such as Charles T. Munger Jr., who donated $7 million to the 2010 Prop. 20 redistricting ballot initiative that expanded the citizens redistricting system to U.S. House seats, believed that such a measure would really help take the politicians out of the redistricting process and empower citizens.

Early articles about redistricting sounded woefully naïve. Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson actually believed redistricting would increase the power of the GOP and they were concerned about getting support from Democrats, but the end result is a massive power shift from the declining GOP to the Democratic Party.

Let this be a reminder of how easily any reform—no matter how appealing it may sound—can and will be manipulated by those who are most skilled at the political game. In California, reform measures promoted by political novices will undoubtedly be manipulated by the pros. And as the GOP becomes less relevant, it seems less capable of recruiting highly skilled politicos who can duke it out with the Dems.

It's really impossible to take politics out of politics. The ProPublica report, combined with Calwatchdog's series last summer, will remind political observers of the enormous obstacles to reform. Not only must reformers come up with a good idea, they must figure out
a way to outsmart a ruthless political machine.

Steven Greenhut is editor of

NEXT: Katherine Mangu-Ward on the Protest Art of Occupy Oakland

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    1. Sobering!

  1. The report included an exclusive interview with a redistricting commission member who alleged partisan behavior by his supposedly non-partisan commission colleagues, but the series didn’t cause much attention in the media, the Capitol, or among the public.

    Forget it, Steven. It’s Chinatown. That’s the problem when you have a partisan press and a cynical electorate. Everyone expects this and no one thinks anything will change, so why bother.

    1. every Repub running for any office outside of CA should highlight the state as what happens when the left is let out of its cage. CA is a cautionary tale, or should be, about govt excess in all its sordid glory.

      1. Likewise, TX should highlight what happens when the right is left of out its cage. Going on 80b in debt, constant Fed money streams to keep it afloat. Their redistricting is as bad as CAs.

        1. And IL should highlight what happens when Chicago is let out of its cage… Maybe we could give it to wisconsin?

        2. Texas has a $27 billion shortfall over a 2 year budget cycle. 27/2 ? 80b.
          What is it with liberals and math, anyway?

          1. that sounds like a deficit, which is the discrete derivative of the debt. What’s the net accumulated debt so far?

          2. 80b is the projected hole they will be in beyond 2012 without any changes.

            And liberal? Really?

        3. Except that Texas doesn’t do budget deficits. Texas does actual zero sum budgeting, where they spend however much money they take in. After the last budget was passed (TX budgets are 2 years at a time) there was no deficit” (they’re not allowed to have one) and still $10bn in savings they didn’t access to close any imaginary budget holes.

          So yes, please hold Texas up as what happens when the right wing is let out of the cage: fiscal responsibility and god forbid, actually SAVING money.

        4. Except that Texas doesn’t do budget deficits. Texas does actual zero sum budgeting, where they spend however much money they take in. After the last budget was passed (TX budgets are 2 years at a time) there was no deficit” (they’re not allowed to have one) and still $10bn in savings they didn’t access to close any imaginary budget holes.

          So yes, please hold Texas up as what happens when the right wing is let out of the cage: fiscal responsibility and god forbid, actually SAVING money.

    2. I’m happy for California to be 100% in the hands of the Left when it the tricks have all run out and the bill comes due. Have fun dealing with the monsters you created.

  2. Predictable outcomes should not surprise anybody.

  3. I like my states approach.

    Its clearly partisan, but the number of choices have been limited by the state supreme court, because a minimum # of political entities can be split.

    Specifically counties at the highest level (and cities within counties when it comes to that). A computer determines the minimum number of counties that must be split to make districts (US house, state senate, state house) and then the fighting begins over which option amongst those that hit this minimum to go with.

    It prevents the outrageously stupid districts (with the district running down an interstate median across 1/2 the state) while still allowing the politics to be open and not some weird corrupt “non-partisan” bullshit.

    1. I say just have a computer do the whole thing. It shouldn’t be too hard to make a program that divides each state into districts with equal populations that are as close to square in shape as possible.

      1. do you live in the west or midwest or something?

        I think following county lines is better than squares, and KY counties are anthing but rectangular. Unlike the the insane midwest and west.

        I guess a “degree of compactness” factor could be added in, but from what I have seen, the 4ish or so possible legal plans all look roughly the same with subtle county switch differences. Let the politicians fight it out over those, IMO. Theyve got to do something with their time and fighting over redistricting is better than most possibilities.

        1. I think redistricting is a great way to tie up Team Red and Team Blue from actually doing anything dangerous.

          1. Seriously. It’s as if people think California Republicans are any better.

        2. No, I live where counties are shaped strangely and are almost completely irrelevant to everyday life. Everything is done by towns here. So I’d be more inclined to consider towns the basic political unit rather than counties.
          My preference for plain geometrical shapes is just a desire for the districting to be as arbitrary and non-political as possible. I don’t think that there should be any political input in determining districts.

      2. I say just have a computer do the whole thing.
        one slight problem with this: the computer program is only as good as the human input.

        1. I don’t think that matters. The point is just to have it done in an arbitrary and pre-determined way.

      3. I say just have a computer do the whole thing.

        Who is going to program the computer, an activist for the Democrats?

        Machines are impartial, the designers of the machines, not necessarily so.

        And, most states have actual terrain and city boundaries that make chopping into squares a bad idea.

        The Hawaii state constitution has a pretty good system for redistricting, laying out several criteria for how a district should be laid out, but you still need smart people from the minority party to speak out if the proposed results seem to game the criteria.

        1. You could have a fairly simple program to do it and make the source code public. Yes, people can fuck anything up, but if there are clear pre-determined standards for the districting program, it will be far more transparent and apolitical than any system where people just make it up as they go along.

        2. you still need smart people from the minority party to speak out if the proposed results seem to game the criteria.

          The problem of CA is that both sides agreed to safe seats – the system was gamed by both parties.

    2. Hi robc,

      It sounds your state is on to something here. I’m working on the State Integrity Investigation with parters from PRI, The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. We’ll be producing report cards and rankings for each State based on its risk for corruption. The aim is to highlight and report what is working, and what is broken in State governments, and to equip citizens with tools to share the reports and work with their officials on reform. Among the categories being investigated are access to information, campaign finance and, of course, redistricting. We would love to talk with you about the good work your State Officials are doing to help the people they work for by adopting policies that protect them from the perils of corrupt activity in State offices. Where do you live?

    1. “Threadjack” is superfluous.

    2. I agree with it what it says, but I found the cut off text and distorted audio a bit jarring.

      1. I am also on board. Let’s bomb those Chinese before they can invade.

    3. This is actually an ad from one of the pro-Paul SuperPacs.

    4. I like it,
      but it is too anti-American for the average voter.

  4. Isn’t Texas the all time greatest at partisan redistricting corruption?

    OT –……html?_r=1

    Thirty yr old ethanol tax credit expires.

    1. without a doubt shreik. what Texas dems did in the 80’s and 90’s was criminal.

      1. You conservatives crack me up with your selective memory. By the way, why isn’t the convicted felon Tom DeLay sitting in a prison shower with a giant cock up his ass? Are there no prison sentences in Texas for felons?

        1. Who here is a “conservative”?

          1. Are you kidding me?

            Most are. Its easier to count the libertarians and anarchists.

            George W. Bush is a fucking demi-god here. If I mention him dozens run to his defense.

            Someone posted the article from Mises with this chart


            the other day and posters jumped through hoops trying to defend Bush.

            1. Did you actually read Reason from 2000 – 2008? The whining about W was non-stop!

              1. Yes, but that was then. The revisionism began Jan 21, 2009.

                1. We didn’t realize how good we had it under Bush, compared to Obama.

                  1. I’m not going to vote Republican if they’re only 3% better than Democrats.

            2. a pox on both houses:

              Some of the highlights: Nancy Pelosi and her husband were parties to a dozen or so IPOs, many of which were effectively off limits to all but the biggest institutional investors and their favored clients. One of those was a 2008 investment of between $1 million and $5 million in Visa, an opportunity the average investor could not have bought, begged, or borrowed his way into ? one that made the Pelosis a 50 percent profit in two days. Visa, of course, had business before Speaker Pelosi, who was helping to shape credit-card-reform legislation at the time. Visa got what it wanted. The Pelosis have also made some very fortunate investments in gas and energy firms that have benefited from Representative Pelosi’s legislative actions.

              Besting Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D., N.Y.) got in on the pre-IPO action, without putting up so much as one rapidly depreciating U.S. dollar of his own assets, when a political supporter ? who just happened to be the biggest shareholder of the firm in question ? lent him $14,000 to buy shares in the private company, which he then sold for more than a hundred grand after the firm went public. There wasn’t so much as a written loan agreement.


              1. How did VISA get what they wanted? Pelosi voted against legislation that benefited credit card companies.

                Joe Biden was the one who voted WITH the Delaware credit card whores – and so did Senator Tim Johnson (D) of South Dakota (two states where card companies locate).

                I think Biden and Johnson should be written up. Oh wait – its the National Review – they will side with the card companies – never mind.

                1. Was cash made illegal or something and you are forced to use Visa?

                  There’s always MasterCard, Discover, American Express, or *gasp* cheques…

                  1. “cheques”

                    Is that something like a check?

                  2. HEY! Plastic is an inalienable human right!

            3. Hey, shrike… I failed to vote for Bush.


              Who did YOU vote for? Obama? Kerry? Both?

            4. George W. Bush is a fucking demi-god here

              Like Kali Ma?


              STFU already

            5. You should post the one that shows gov’t spending as a percent of GDP was higher under Reagan than any other president in history (excluding WWII and pre-Obama, of course).

            6. Well, that chart is a little disingenuous. The vast majority of the Bush increase came after the Dems won congress, and was just the last two years.

              If some hypothetical president cut spending in half for 7 years, then doubled it from the original his last year, that chart would show him at 100, even though he’d reduced overall outlays over the whole term.

          2. And why does shrike support prison rape?

            1. I’m guessing he’s jealous of DeLay.

              1. Oh, Spiny… come ON. You know why shrike supports it… he’s not coy about it.

          3. Have to agree with shrike. The amount of Republican posing as libertarians on here is quite crazy.

            1. So, if libertarians sounded more like Democrats…?

              1. Yeah, shrike says it’s a conservative site and all the conservatives say it’s a liberal site. Who’d a thunk it?

                1. Not Team Blue =/= conservative.

                2. Ain’t confirmation bias fun?

                  1. I should have stressed “not *social* conservative”. Being fiscally conservative… well, that’s just common sense.

            2. The amount of Republican posing as libertarians on here is quite crazy.


              It is entirely possible to be both a libertarian and a Republican at the same time. Just ask Ron Paul.

              There are many of us who hold to a libertarian ideology instead of a conservative one, but who register and/or vote Republican because we see it as the lesser of the two primary evils, and we aren’t ready to vote third party. If I’m going to spend a couple of hours standing in line at a polling place, I prefer to vote for the candidate who most closely matches me ideologically but who also has a chance in hell of winning.

              1. Sorry – the italics should have ended after just the first sentence.

      2. I’d say both parties are pretty equally evil when it comes to gerrymandering.

        1. Yes. It goes by who controls the most states. Right now the GOP does so they are worse. In my state (GA) the GOP truly has screwed over the Dems. We have had the worst set of Congress-Idiots in the country (D or R). We gave DC McKinney, Gingrich, Deal (now our bankrupt Governor) and the complete flake Paul Broun among many others.

          1. You’re a dick…but I still like you better than White Idiot!

            1. I never get why people think shrike is a troll. If there were more shrikes and less Tonys on Team Blue this would be a much better world.

              1. He’s annoying. Trolls are annoying. Ergo.

                1. Besides, he spends too much time bitching about “Christ-fags”, and not enough time blaming Team Blue AND Team Red.

                  1. Yeah but the thing about shrike is most of his criticisms are true, even if he emphasizes the wrong thing.

                    Contrast that to Tony, a hypocrite and an intellectual whore who’ll say anything, or the endless flow of strawmen from WI.

                    1. Maybe shrike would be more believable if he weren’t so shrill and whiny.

          2. Team Blue is no better than Team Red, shrike… and the vice is versa.

            Be more intellectually honest than Tony. Man up.

  5. Sometimes, when you see protestors protesting something in California, it should cross your mind that the Democrat psyche there is in love with the idea of protest–and that there’s no part of government left to protest here that isn’t controlled by the Democratic party.

    Why protest a port? What else is there for a Democratic protestbot to protest? They can’t even protest the president! And protestbot must protest.

    1. I’m protesting the redistricting of Morning Links.

  6. Congratulations, Reason; your website is now serving up Warby Parker banner ads for monocles.

    1. Excellent!

      1. I still haven’t found a place to buy a set of top-hat & tails I can actually afford.

        Nor a good barber to wax my moustache for me.

  7. It’s less Democratic corruption than Republican ineptness.

    1. Are you saying Team Red should try to be more ept at gerrymandering the Golden State?

      1. The only thing preventing Republicans from corrupting every election in the country is their own stupidity. The California thing took some effort–Republicans are more likely just to try to deny minorities and students the right to vote.

        1. I make no sense and just rant irrationally about how Republicans could commit widescale voter fraud but are too “stupid” to do so.

          1. Oh they’ve done plenty. The California plan was flawed in sometimes surprising ways. The Democrats took advantage of it. They didn’t outright try to deny the franchise to people not likely to vote for them like Republicans are doing all over the country.

            1. Here we go again with this “denying franchise” nonsense.

              I actually worked as an election judge and can attest that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, gets turned away for not having ID.

              1. So what’s the point of requiring one?

                1. the point, Tony, is to make sure that people who show up to vote are actually eligible to vote where they show up. That some officials turn a blind eye to what should be common sense in addition to law only amplifies the inherent flaws in the system. And re: alleged disenfranchisement, why do you think blacks are incapable of getting driver’s licenses or other ID?

                2. Every illegal vote cast equals one disenfranchised legal voter. Why do Dems want to disenfranchise legal voters? You can only assume that they know illegal votes will be cast for them. This means they are responsible for disenfranchising voters and election fraud both, and are apparently proud of it.

                  1. But other voters who have no ID could be disenfranchised too.

                    I oppose any law where I can conceive of a scenario where application of the law would be unjust. Voter ID laws fall in that category for me. Sure, anyone can get an ID. But no one should be required to do anything other than be a citizen over 18 years old to be allowed to vote.
                    I am very disappointed in the level of support for such laws among libertarians.

                    1. How do we make sure *some* voters don’t try to vote more than once per election, Zeb?

                    2. No Problem, just prove to the election judge that yo are a citizen of the district you are voting in and over the age of 18. Maybe a drivers license or state provided ID might help to do that in a way that does not allow people to claim discrimination.

                3. Who cares? It’s a goddamned great idea. We need more voter screening.

            2. Tony|1.2.12 @ 12:46PM|#
              …”They didn’t outright try to deny the franchise to people not likely to vote for them like Republicans are doing all over the country.”

              Lie, shithead.

            3. Hey Tony,

              If the solution to California’s political problems was voting Democrat, then what’s the solution to California’s political problems now that the Republicans are practically extinct?

              Voting Democrat harder?

              1. I’m no expert but isn’t California’s big problem its overreliance on referenda? My position that the best thing anyone can do for the country is never to vote for a Republican is separate from the fact that Democrats can be corrupt too. I’d rather have two sane parties to choose from. Republicans being almost universally corrupt xenophobe-baiting corporate whores isn’t Democrats’ fault. Actually I think it’s partly your fault. You tell a gullible laissez-faire-leaning party that the highest virtue is selfishness, and what do you expect?

                1. ah, Tony…new year, same old talking points: xenophone, corporatists, blah blah. Just stop. The Dems have made a total cluster of CA, much like they’ve done with most places where they have near unfettered control.

                  1. I can’t remembering anything good ever happening because of one party government.

                    No matter the party.

                2. The referrenda might be more of a problem if they were actually consequential. Most of the really big propositions I can think of since the ’90s were completely defanged or obliterated by the courts.

                  Everybody remembers Prop 187 passed; passing that was the beginning of the end for the Republicans in California. …but hardly anybody seems to remember Prop 187 was struck down by the courts.

                  It’s like that with what you would think was smaller stuff too, like the auto insurance initiatives. Ridiculous amounts of time, money and effort were spent getting that passed–the courts ended up taking over anyway.

                  The referendum is just a symptom of the problem. If we’re gonna have a legislature, these issues should be voted on by the legislature. If the legislature is completely ineffective, then going to a referendum is the natural result of that.

                  1. Corruption is rampant. We have the data to prove it…but we also have data to show what is working in which States. PRI, The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity are working with experienced State House journalists in each State to measure and rank corruption risk. We’ll be releasing the data soon, and full report cards on March 19th. Sign up to get your State’s Corruption Risk Report Card here:

                3. Tony|1.2.12 @ 1:26PM|#
                  “…My position that the best thing anyone can do for the country is never to vote for a Republican is separate from the fact that Democrats can be corrupt too…”

                  No, it isn’t shithead. That’s a lie.

                4. Two sane parties, Tony? And you’re counting YOUR party as one?

                  1. Hey, Sevo… at least he’s admitting Team Blue can be corrupt. He hardly ever cops to the truth about his Team.

                    1. You’re right, but the claim that not voting for team red is ‘the best thing..’ is a lie.

                    2. True, but only because he’s so far up Team Blue’s ass, he *can’t* help but lie.

                  2. Tony’s hoping for an option between a Maoist party and a Stalinist party. You know, a real choice.

                    1. Then he’s in luck. That’s pretty much what we’ve got.

                    2. Then he’s in luck. That’s pretty much what we’ve got.

                      Except Tony thinks the equivalent of the Maoist Party can do no wrong, and he thinks the Stalinist Party is evil incarnate.

        2. Worked in Wisconsin.

    2. This is one of those times when it is both.

      Seriously, they keep this crap up and anyone that still wants honest govt is going to have little choice but shooting the fuckers.

  8. The Challenge of Replacing Organized Crime with Governance

    The drug lords and ruling gangs offer security and social goods to populations that are economically, socially and politically marginalized. Some of the gangs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro provide handouts to locals, and even help resolve disputes with informal court systems. But they also keep control of the neighborhood through violence and crime.

    “Often the experience that people will have in such areas with the state is solely of the state coming in to do raids and killing all the people,” Felbab-Brown says.

    I recall reading that one problem with formalisation of the economy in Brazilian favelas was that the cost of tax compliance was so high in Brazil that it would wipe out any profits and leave many informal businesses unviable.

    1. Brazil is the only country besides Venezuela anywhere in the Americas where being non-progressive (even socialistic) is as worthy of public and private mockery and scorn as being an American in northwestern France is. None of this is surprising.

    2. “Replacing Organized Crime with Governance”

      There’s a difference?

  9. What we seem to be forgetting, is it’s not just about team red or team blue, but the type of people that get elected.

    Even though blue will probably pick up more seats, I would imagine many of them will be more conservative.

    Adding to that will be the new primary system where the top two vote getters (even from the same party) will go on to the general, and people can vote for any candidate they want.

    I think between those, we should see some more moderate candidates being elected even though, they are still blue.

    1. California’s a majority-leftist state in almost every sector of its society. It takes some serious gerrymandering to come up with Team Red districts.

      The Republicans did a similar thing in Ohio to what the Democrats are pulling in California (basically carving up the cities into east, west, south, etc. districts that have a good chunk of suburb with them). I’m bemusedly in favour of it, since Kucinich lost his seat and is now running a primary challenge with Marcy Kaptur, and some serious mud is being slung.

      1. This Marcy Kaptur, who called for the governor to be recalled for calling a police officer an “idiot” and said he as a bad attitude toward law enforcement.

        1. (Forgot to mention Ohio has no law providing to recall a governor, so a Congresswoman advocating the recall of a state governor is pretty stupid. I kind of wish she were a senator and then the legislature could, in theory, recall her!)

          1. so you’re saying that if Marcy wins, the former Kucinich constituents will notice no difference in the quality of their representation?

      2. There are red districts.

        Bakersfield has gotta be red.

        I’d guess that everything from North County San Diego to up to northern Orange County is probably red.

        There are some blue districts interspersed in there.

        You might find a lot of other red districts around Palm Desert and Barstow, Riverside, the area around Loma Linda, etc.

        The red districts are out there.

        1. Why the people of Bakersfield should have to be in the same state as the people of Santa Cruz, however, that’s like cruel and unusual punishment.

          1. Why any US Citizen should have to be in the same country as the people(‘s republic) of Santa Cruz, however, that’s like cruel and unusual punishment.

        2. The red districts certainly exist but they are by far in the minority.

          Even north county is not that conservative anymore. You have to go to east county to find red districts in California.

          It’s sort of like asking “gee, why are there so many Team Red districts in Texas”?

          1. Oceanside and Vista might skew red, but Poway and Rancho Bernardo?

            I bet even Escondido is redder than it used to be.

            If Southern California were its own state, I think there would be a lot more competition between the two major parties. Water is probably a bigger issue than it used to be, but maybe we should revisit that again.

            Apart from that, to improve things, maybe we advocate moving to proportional representation–just for the state legislature. Splitting the greens off of the Democrats–who primarily represent government employees–would help. They wouldn’t always be in cahoots. And splitting an anti-immigration party off of the low tax, fiscal conservative party wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

            To me, that’s might be part of the solution to all this–breaking the association of the fiscal conservatives and anti-tax people with culture war shit like anti-immigration and opposition to gay marriage.

            If the legislature wants to redistrict the voters, let’s have the voters redistrict the legislature! If we put all the anti-immigration people in one box, then maybe anti-tax, fiscal conservatives will have a fighting chance.

          2. Incidentally, if you use the results of the Prop 8 vote to make a political map of who might vote red?


            And you made the line on that map the line that already run across the top of San Luis Obispo county, Kern County and San Bernardino County? You’d be looking at a state in Southern California that’s a lot more conservative.

            Santa Barbara County is the only county is Southern California that voted against Prop 8. If the counties in the Southern California could get their water guaranteed, I bet they’d vote to secede to a new state if they could.

            1. Generally agreed, although I think the Right To Be Wet party would be short-lived as a single-issue party. (Not to mention the question of why the government should be involved in the business of moving water from one place to another.)

              1. Governments have been involved with moving water for irrigation and other purposes from one place to another since day one. If (and please note the “if”) government is to be involved in the allocation of any natural resource, water is probably the one closest to a public good. Especially in places where there isn’t enough of it.

  10. The political left exploited the redistricting process in California to assure strong gains for the Democratic Party

    [insert exclamation of astonishment and disbelief]

  11. Constitutional amendment proposal:

    Each district for the House of Representatives shall have boundaries consisting of only straight lines and segments of the borders of the state in which it resides; and in each state, only one district’s boundaries may consist of more than four lines inside the state.


    1. See above, do you live in crazy western states with square counties?

      Why is following county boundaries a bad idea. Good creeks make good neighbors.

      1. Counties don’t have equal population.

      2. Are square counties what makes a state crazy, or do they just happen to coincide?

        I think that following counties is a fine idea. I just happen to think that a strictly mathematical way of determining districts is even better.

        1. Then don’t go by county… just divide each state into equal square districts, and stop this stupid fucking “gerrymandering” bullshit.

          1. I’m guessing you haven’t taken a look at the topographical map of Hawaii if you think equal square districts would work at all here.

            Things like oceans and mountain ranges can’t just be ignored.

            1. Hawaii is so small, you could basically just make it one big-ass district.

              1. It’s two districts — urban Honolulu plus some adjoining suburbs, and the rest of Oahu plus the Neighbor Islands.

                If you tried to do reapportionment using squares, you could wind up with some crazy-ass things like having bits of the Windward side and Kauai lumped together with urban Honolulu.

                Every reapportionment plan for the state legislature uses the mountain range between honolulu and the windward side as a boundary, which results in some funny-looking districts on paper that make total sense when you look up at a knife-edged ridge used as a boundary.

                1. I defer to those who know Hawaii better than I do… but for the rest of the states, where there’s actual land-mass…

    2. In states that have them, just use federal public land survey township lines as the basis for districts.

    3. Population/natural geographical boundaries make this a little implausible.

      I do like the idea of every district being roughly the same shape, with the population determining the size (denser population = smaller physical district).

  12. California is done. we’re going to make Greece look like a bunch of amateurs.

    1. Texas already beat you to it.

  13. The idea being to cut down on gerrymandering by only allowing quadrilaterals as district shapes, except for districts that touch the border of the state (and those couldn’t get very complicated either).

    1. With modern GIS and postal address mapping software, it would be pretty easy for boards of elections to assign people to the right districts.

      However, you’re forgetting that race-based gerrymandering is required by VRA of 1965.

      1. I’m not so sure. The districts they produce are nowhere near quadrilateral, so clearly it would muck up their current techniques.

      2. And constitutional amendments trump VRA.

        1. Oh, sorry, I was thinking state constitutional amendment (as you know, we pass a few dozen of those in California per week).

  14. I’d rather just have Congress critters get seats w/ signatures from 660,000 registered voters, who can only sign one petition. Let us pick our own districts.

    1. Damn straight! There’s no reason in this modern age that congresscritters should have to represent a geographic district!

      I don’t see the need for sticking to the current number of representatives or voters, however. There’s a lot of things the U.S. can’t afford, but a larger meeting hall isn’t one of them.

      In fact, I’d say representatives ought to vote a number of proxy votes equal to the number of their constituents.

      1. Damn straight! There’s no reason in this modern age that congresscritters should have to represent a geographic district!

        There’s no way politicians would go for that, because then people would start thinking, “Now, why can’t I pick which GOVERNMENTAL service provider I want to represent me and pay taxes to, instead of the current one where 51% of those who bother to show up to the polls pick a monopoly government for me?

  15. Yanna is a 22 year old ballerina with all the grace and beauty of an artist born for the stage.

    SHE CURRENTLY stars as the lead dancer of the musical ‘Cats’ in her home land of the Czech Republic and lives in a dancer’s community with two other performers. It is no big surprise that her favorite body part is her legs which she of course shows off with a great deal of enthusiasm.

    Petter met up with Yanna in the city of Prague where they shot a nice collection of ballerina images. He was instantly drawn to her physical grace and hard working attitude. Yanna is very proud of her trained body and rightly so. She is indeed a natural beauty and takes to modeling with the same confidence she brings to the stage.

    Confident and sexy in all the right ways, Yanna is the kind of woman many of us only get to dream about.

  16. Radical out-of-the-box idea: Get rid of the idea of geographically based districts. How about we randomly assign registered voters to districts? Or have all candidates in a general election and the top 53 vote getters assigned to the 53 districts?

    1. That’s not really an out of the box idea, as many of the world’s democracies operate that way (proportional representation).

      The problem is that it deprives rural areas of any real representation, since for every candidate there are enough votes in LA and SF to win the election, and it’s much easier to campaign in two cities than statewide.

      1. Never understood why rural areas needed so much reppin’. It’s basically a throwback to owning land = voting.

        Perhaps one’s representation could be based on the amount of land under one’s ownership or leasehold.

        1. Never understood why rural areas needed so much reppin’.

          It’s a tyranny of the majority thing.

      2. And dividing up districts to emasculate rural regions is better how?

        Case in point: San Jose. This city was sliced like a pie with districts going from city center to the far rural hills. This deliberately excluded two potential rural districts.

        1. I hadn’t noticed that. This seems in direct conflict with aims of the commission, which included keeping cities, communities, and “communities of interest” together as much as possible. My own town of Santa Cruz was about to be split “down the middle,” sacrificed on the altars of ethnic/racial and partisan balance. We were successful in getting a district that kept the city together, which seemed fair to me, even though Santa Cruz votes overwhelmingly and reliably Democratic. I don’t like this specific outcome because it helps amplify and concentrate Demo power, but on the other hand, fair is fair. People co-locate to enjoy strength in numbers, and “reverse gerrymandering” to negate that advantage is as bad as gerrymandering to enhance it (or to create it where none naturally exists).

          1. This seems in direct conflict with aims of the commission, which included keeping cities, communities, and “communities of interest” together as much as possible.

            Hence the controversy, gnashing of teeth, and beard rending by the party to the right of center.

            1. I think Santa Cruz was involved in this whole mess. We didn’t want to be split up, but there were ethnic balance considerations that, were they not addressed, threatened to tie up redistricting in court for who knows how long. When I learned that Santa Cruz was NOT being split between districts, I also heard that bits and pieces of other proposed districts were being adjusted and/or moved to achieve the required ethnic/racial balance. I’m thinking now that the “pie slice” districts to which you refer above were among the “surgery patients.” But I don’t recall anything that horrendous on the most recent maps I have seen. Perhaps I need to look again.

          2. Cities tend to be strongly left-statist, so if you keep them undivided, you wind up with deep Blue districts.

            Note how in Texas you get a bunch of teeny dark blue districts in Austin and Dallas and whatnot, and then large districts almost everywhere else that are dark red, except for the Hispanic areas along the border.

            1. I absolutely agree with this, and it is sometimes hell being a Libertarian in the People’s Soviet Republic of Santa Cruz. But on the other hand, I think that it is people’s prerogative to move wherever they want, and especially to places where the neighbors are like-minded. For the same reason that I approved of the Free State Project, I have no problem with all the progressives moving to Santa Cruz or concentrating in cities — well, I have a problem with it, but not one that inspires me to use force as a remedy to keep them out. And I don’t have so much of a problem with it that I will be chased from my home to some other place that has a less desirable location or environment. 😉

    2. You have a good idea for putting a stop to corrupt redistricting practices. It seems easy enough, right? Well why isn’t it a priority for most States? PRI, The Center for Public Integrity, and Global Integrity will be releasing detailed corruption risk report cards on March 19th that will uncover the risk for corruption in all 50 States across several categories of State Government. We will also highlight what is working in State governments. The aim is to get the word out on what is working, and what is broken. Get you State’s report card here:

  17. All the genuinely Republican areas of California should band together to form the Commonwealth of California (‘Southern California’ implies separation, while another ‘California’ would indicate that IT is the legitimate one of the two).

    I even came up with a coat of arms and a flag for the hypothetical state, but I can’t find them. Fuck.

  18. … as a liberal, I’m always fascinated by right-leaning affirmative action. “We’re not good at something, but you should let us do it.” You see this in politics, academia, entertainment, and a whole host of other things.

    … and these people yell at us about a “free market.” Adorable. 🙂

    1. … as a liberal, I’m always fascinated by right-leaning affirmative action.

      I don’t know what you mean by this.

      You do realize that Affirmative Action is very racist, no?

      “Well, since you’re black, we don’t really -expect- you to do as well as whites.”

      1. How anyone can call themselves “Liberty” and be a liberal at the same time… the mind, it boggles.

        1. I am all for Liberty, but with these caveats. See? (Holds end of paper, bottom of paper is a scroll which drops to the ground and rolls off into the distance).

          1. Hah! A scroll would be made of *paper*, and a true liberal would have it on an iPad or some shit.

    2. I’m not a Republican.

      …but not being very good at screwing over the electorate isn’t something I’d be ashamed of if I were.

  19. Get rid of the idea of geographically based districts. How about we randomly assign registered voters to districts?

    I have toyed with a similar idea, and I like it. Hold elections, then assign the winners to geographic districts randomly, with no restrictions on the ability of their newly assigned constituents to “petition for redress of grievances”.

    You would, in my fantasy, have a Washington more oriented toward dealing with large scale national issues. Local (state) issues would be devolved back to the state and local governments.

    It is certainly not incorruptible, but would probably be an improvement.

  20. I suspect it would also do away with the phenomenon of “permanent incumbency”.

  21. You mean to tell me there are corrupt politicians screwing up the country? Newsflash!

    1. It’s Team Red! They’re ALL guilty! We’re clean and pure and cannot be corrupted!

      1. Bullshit! Team Blue is full of crooks and liars!

  22. Dont you just love our bought and paid for politicians??

  23. I applied to serve on the Commission and made it to the 2nd or 3rd round. That was the round in which the subjective “quality” of the applicants was assessed. An early stated goal of the selection process was to find the “best” candidates. So, after all the mechanics of trying to eliminate conflicts of interest in the first couple of rounds, the selection board concentrated on empaneling the most “distinguished” applicants they could. I had thought that perhaps having years of experience as a computer programmer, technical writer, disc jockey, and manager of technical professional, I would be fairly well qualified to sit on the commission — and certainly to see through any shenanigans that might be attempted, and explain or promote the process and its results to the public — but I was chagrined to look at my evaluation sheet, which was published at the end of the process, and find (I paraphrase) “nothing exceptional” as the reason for rejection. I didn’t take it too personally — tens of thousands of probably wonderfully qualified candidates were in my same boat — but I did wonder what the selection board counted as “exceptional” characteristics for this position. So I looked at the evaluations of other unsuccessful, and several successful candidates. Mostly, “the right stuff” seemed to boil down to demonstrated leadership of a civic or commercial nature (without actually having served as a candidate, elected public official, or key functionary of a political party). From this, I developed the opinion that the key value of the commissioners, as the public faces of the redistricting effort, was to bring respect and gravitas to the organization, not necessarily to worry their “pretty heads” with the actual nuts-and-bolts details of redistricting. (In retrospect: Well duh!) I worried that the commission would turn out to be less about drawing fair lines and more about driving opinion and fostering the perception of impartiality. I don’t want to go too far down that line of speculation, as I actually didn’t get to see how the sausage was made, and mine is not a case of sour grapes. But it seems to me that a better selection process would have resembled the following:

    1. Try to detect and eliminate conflicts of interest;

    2. Try to determine whether the applicants were competent, qualified and available to do the actual work of redistricting;

    3. Random selection, perhaps with a limited number of challenges from the party interests, until the panel was filled.

    Some of these elements were present in the actual selection process, but applied in the wrong order. A preoccupation with finding “the best” candidates, and weeding out thousands of candidates before the random-selection phase kicked in, was a big hole, through which tricky operatives could have introduced a lot of selection bias or corruption.

    In sum, I think that the commission should probably have been selected via a method that were similar to the one used to empanel a jury. It needed to less about leading citizens and more about everyday citizens (who nevertheless could do the job). I have made appropriate suggestions to the Commission in case the selection process is open to change in the future. I’m sorry to hear about the present corruption allegations, and I still believe in the idea of citizen commission to clean up the redistricting process. But I think they have work to do before people can be confident that the Commission and its product will be seen as fair and balanced.

    1. “I’m sorry to hear about the present corruption allegations, and I still believe in the idea of citizen commission to clean up the redistricting process.”

      From your description, it sounds like it was a “commission selected by politicos and given a PR name”.
      Who made the selections? “Citizens”?
      If, as a member of the commission who chooses the parrots to represent us, do we call that the “Parrot Commission”? Or should we be honest and call it the “Parrot Commission selected by the Politico Commission”?

      1. Actually, it was a commission apparently selected by accountants and clerks, who, I believe, must have employed some kind of rubric against which they awarded “exceptionality” points. “Civic group leadership, check. Charitable and volunteer contributions, check. Connections to media, check. From a ‘diverse’ background (this was a stated goal of the selection process), check.” And so forth, and so on. If you had the right keywords in your application, you got more points, and maybe a second look; if you didn’t score highly enough, you got tossed in the “unexceptional” bin, without anyone ever asking or answering the question: “Can this person do the job fairly and competently?” That is my impression of the process from the applicant side, anyway.

        As far as the citizenship or California residency of the selection board or their minions, I think you can determine that information from their official website. I didn’t see anything amiss, but your mileage may vary.

  24. too many politically pathetic immigrants here in CA to care, if english speaking ability or the lack thereof hasn’t already impaired their tendency to participate in important local politics. getting the heck out of this hell hole the first thing after i save up some money

    1. jt|1.2.12 @ 10:10PM|#
      “too many politically pathetic immigrants here in CA to care, if english speaking ability or the lack thereof hasn’t already impaired their tendency to participate in important local politics.”

      So it’s those darn brown people who haven’t saved us from the CA democrats? Is that your point?

  25. Someone suggested using computers to block out equal population boundaries, or counties, but really, is that the best solution?

    Imagine if you will, two neighboring counties, one is 95 percent Republican and the other is 55 percent Democrat. If counties are the gold standard, then you end up with one Republican and one Democratic representative – but does that really represent the ideology of the voting populous as a whole?

    I’m just saying, I get why using “simple”, non-political standards to define the districts might not end up being the best solution. Of course, if a computer program could be effectively and impartially programmed to take into consideration political densities rather than just strict population densities, you might have something.

  26. Regardless of your political opinion, Calwatchdog’s series by John Hrabe mention of Gabino Aguirre, and the
    way he abused the public trust to secure his own political gain is just wrong!

  27. Now, you can help make the corrections to Our Republic that you want corrected.
    When the people fear the government, that’s Tyranny!
    When the government fears the people, that’s Liberty!
    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!
    Now Is the Time for All Good Men and Women to come to the aid of Our Country!
    Make the Difference and Take a Stand with other Good Men and Women.
    Info @
    Take Care and GOD BLESS The Whole World!
    Mr. Harris

  28. I just realized this was written in 2002. I wonder what the gun crime rate is now. Any government that tells you that you have no right to self defense is not looking after your best interest. Self defense is the most basic right anyone has. No government or police can protect you. I can’t believe you all allow this to continue. I keep a gun at home for self defense and have a license to carry it concealed any where I go. And I do. If I am attacked then at least I have a chance to stay alive. By the time the police arrive they can either arrange for my body to be picked up or take a statement from me. I choose the later. Britons let a right be taken from them and now it will be much harder to get it back. But you should try.
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