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August 10, 2005


I often wish redistricting would shake the power alignments within the Democratic Party in CA, but not along the proposed lines of the "Schwarzenegger" initiative. The CA redistricting could be called better the Ted Costa tax reactionary radical Republican sham redistricting; or even more accurately, the CA subset of the TX Delay Armey grassroots reform. If you look who are the governor's committee members, the people actually writing his scripts, they are the planners at RNC, lots of them not even CA residents. Schwarzenegger is the actor; theirs the plan. On the surface it looks like a "panel of retired judges" would be a more objective way to gerrymander, but if these individuals were retired, they would not be for long, once they were assigned redistricting chores. And the initiative circulated substituted a key verb in one place different from the text approved in Sacramento: instead of nominating retired judges, the judges would be named.
This is electoral deception at its core, and the appeals court voted 2-1 today to reject it. Still, when I hear CA Rep. Chesbro advocating sending Eel River water to Modesto agribusiness 350 miles away, I wish we could redistrict and vote in a less antienvironmental US Rep; there are others nearby, all Democrats, all ensconced in their protected districts; Mike Thompson is a similar barely liberal Democrat who takes antienvironmental stands in the US House of Representatives. His district is much more liberal than he, but we are a lock to vote for the Democrat, and the party machinery knows that verity. But taking the TX redistricting model as an overlay on CA's needs is to acquiesce to the RNC. As a matter of fact, some of Delay's fundraisers just today lost an appeal in TX for some of their illegal fundraising that diluted poor peoples' districts in the 2002-2003 redistricting in TX.
The GOP has redistricting campaigns in 25 states, and a half dozen are similar to the pattern in CA. The flaw in CA was after foisting off the fake initiatives on voters for signature, the governor's committee people hid the discrepant signed forms for three weeks, letting them see the light of day only three days following the Republican Secretary of State's certification of redistricting for the autumn ballot. The Secretary of State is an easy going sort of Republican, yet, one who used the same RNC ultra-reactionary political operatives to organize his office when he took over following abdication of the Democrat. Turns out the Democratic SoS had several illegal fundraising associates, and had personal disputes with people that soured the atmosphere for any possible reprieve once his fundraising irregularities began to hit the legislative hearing room; none of the actual court decisions have been made yet, now a full year since the Democrat left the CA SoS office, and to this day it is very unclear exactly why he left office so precipitiously. After all: his use of Voting Rights funds, another possible disbursement malfeasance, one which the GOP was threatening to put into the courts, was little different from Schwarzeneggers half dozen committees who are hiding donations in a nationwide shellgame. CA politics are nearly as caricature like as TX's.
OH always has been a frontier state, easily staying Democratic for long stretches, even liberal Democratic; but grassroots organizing by the GOP has borne fruit in OH, as your article, above, mentions. I can still hear the echos of Ken Blackwell in OH saying people could vote on temporary ballots, they just would not be counted. After the election scandal there in 2004's presidential election, I contacted an old college acquaintance about the long waits in lines up to 6-8 hours in inclement weather; his reply: he lives in a Republican suburb near where he is a professor at OH State, voting was fast and easy; just the poor districts had long lines.
That reminds me of Rollin Post's brag when Christie Whitman got elected twice in NJ, claiming he had bribed minority leaders to stir anger among the poor and plead with them to stay home and not exercise their franchise to vote.
Old King George would feel right at home in this environment. At least we have no figurehead monarch in this political system, though there are times the current administration appears to have sequestered a sufficient amount of turf to have the functional equivalent.

Word on Rep. Lemmons and Cushinberry of Michigan:

I know they have a safe Detroit seat, but still, what are they thinking about with both the Secretary of State and Attorney General in Republican hands? Talk about asking for it....

The lesson in MI redistricting is that even supposedly "neutral" methods can still be gamed. Especially, if the State has to give up a seat (as was the case in 2000. Moreover, as the state's population has remained steady (and so lost relative to the nation), it has seen significant internal shifts of population, notably a loss of population in Detroit, and substantial growth in the outer counties of the metro region (Livingston, Washtenaw, and on the west side, Ottawa). Combine the shift of population and the loss in Detroit with the loss of a congressional seat and it's easy to see how you get the lop-sided GOP delegation.

The Ohio Initiative very much interests me. The NYTimes had a good story on it yesterday, and I have yet to check the Ohio papers -- but I am impressed they have over half a million signatures (a little over 300,000 required) and that they have a quite non and bi-partisian sponsorship. According to the Times, the lead on this is Common Cause, and I think they know what they are doing.

As to administration of elections, the emphasis seems to be on removing elected officials from any aspect of the election administration system and the necessary rulemaking. I think Blackwell has already ruled Ohio should convert to paper ballots counted by scanner in the precincts -- and this is something I didn't expect of him, but it does produce the lowest error rate of any system in use.

In recent years, the Ohio Republicans raised the limits on political contributions way out of sight -- and one part of this would drastically cut these limits. In many ways it was the high limits that fostered something like coingate.

We progressives really need "principles" for discussion of the matter of drawing legislative and congressional district lines. We already have one we cannot avoid -- and that's the voting rights law -- but we need to discuss others, particularly one that interests me, and that is that as far as possible, all districts should be competitive. I would suggest one reason people don't vote is because they are captive of districts of the opposite party -- and thus they don't matter. The key is to make all elections more competitive -- and increase the rational for following politics and voting. But yes, most districts would be best if they follow existing civil divisions, (city and county lines) where possible.

But anyhow, I have a notion the Ohio Initative will be successful -- so lets keep it in mind. Apparently it is to be on this November's ballot, meaning at least some of the reforms would be in place for 06.

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