One of the midterm’s silver linings for right-of-center Californians was not only that Democrat attack on the “Citizen’s Redistricting Commission” failed, but that the Commission’s powers were extended to include mapping Congressional seats. The current gerrymander would be undone even though the legislature and governor were Democrats. Since Jerry Brown signed off on the Burton gerrymander in 1980, he would likely do so again given the chance; good thing the Commission won’t allow it, we thought.
But the devil is in the details. Today, the final 6 commissioners were named, subject to a final confirmation vote next week. If confirmed, the 14 member commission will be composed of 4 Asians, 3 non-Hispanic whites, 3 Hispanic/Latino, 2 African Americans, 1 Pacific Islander and 1 Native American. While this is supposed to “reflect the state’s diversity”, a panel that was in line with the California’s demographics would be 6 non-Hispanic whites, 5 Hispanics, 2 Asians and 1 African-American. Apparently the phrase “reflect the state’s diversity” is currently interpreted to mean “disenfranchise the majority.” [A digression: what happened to Prop 209?]
According to Wikipedia, non-Hispanic whites comprise 42.3% of the state’s population, and Hispanics are most of the rest at 36.6%. Together the two groups are 79% of California’s inhabitants, yet the commission gives them only 43% of the votes. Almost a gerrymander in itself.
Looking at profession also gives one pause. Six of the 14 have histories as government employees and a seventh works for an antipoverty non-profit. This group also includes 3 of the 4 “decline-to-state” members, which could result in ideological bias as well.
While there seem to be quite a few well-qualified people on the panel (the former Census Bureau chief seems a good choice), there seems to be little diversity in background — it seems entirely white-collar. Maybe it has to be that way, but it is again a bias.
While I still hope that the commission can rise above its unrepresentative composition and produce a plan as fair as the court-ordered 1990 map, I’m less hopeful than I once was. Worst case: they take the current map and tweak it for population changes, perpetuating the current gerrymander.
To comment on the final six candidates, you need to submit an “…email to email@example.com by no later than 5 p.m. on December 14, 2010. The first eight commissioners will reconvene at 10:30 a.m. on December 15, 2010 and will be taking oral public comment at the public meeting before they take any action on the proposed slate.”