Redistricting reform is a must

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Who’s our representative in the state Senate, Assembly, House of
Representatives?
Who’s our representative in the state Senate, Assembly, House of Representatives?

If you’re not sure, there’s a good reason. Our legislative districts are so gerrymandered, there’s someone from the San Joaquin Valley representing Hollister and someone from San Luis Obispo area representing Morgan Hill.

Sanity is at hand, however. Part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election package is redistricting reform. His proposal might not be perfect, but it’s a far cry better than California’s current system.

Presently, after each census, the California legislature redraws boundaries for state Senate, state Assembly, and U.S. House of Representatives districts. Legislators are supposed to draw reasonable lines that give each district an approximately equal share of the population.

Instead, in a process called gerrymandering, they draw ridiculous districts that serve not to group communities with like interests and concerns, but instead to ensure that seats do not change political parties. Remember the adage, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To fix the inherent conflict of interest of the current system, Schwarzenegger wants to take the responsibility for redrawing districts after every census away from legislators and give it to a panel of retired judges.

A panel of retired judges – though they are not directly accountable to the public – is a solution that is working well in a number of other states.

Further, legislators are accountable to the public, but clearly the public has not held them accountable for their behavior. State Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-15) has called himself, ” … the poster child district for redistricting reform. My senate district encompasses seven assembly districts, eight congressional districts, five counties and stretches from Santa Maria to San Jose. This is not good government.”

As we’ve pointed out before, South Valley’s fragmented districts mean that instead of shared representatives for our region, which has many issues in common, our political voice is diffused among four congressional districts, two assembly districts and two state Senate districts.

It’s not good government, and it’s time that we all stopped griping about gerrymandering and did something to fix the problem. The Schwarzenegger-backed redistricting reform initiative is a reasonable approach.

For the good of California, let’s give the three-judge panel a try. It has to be better than the mess we’ve got now.

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