Propositions 40: CA GOP Deserted Referendum

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(California) – Proposition 40 is a bizarrely unimportant proposition. The California electorate changed the process dramatically with Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010. The goal was to mitigate the effects of gerrymandering.

Propositions 11 and 20 amended the California Constitution and transferred the task of redistricting to a newly created Citizens Redistricting Commission. The nonpartisan commission that certified the 2011 state Senate districts was comprised of fourteen members; five Republicans, five Democrats, and four from neither major party. The map was approved by the commission 13-1.

Despite the new approach, however, partisan politics have not been dispelled from California’s redistricting process. Republican Party members have presented a referendum, Proposition 40, that would annul the Commission’s 2011 state Senate map.

The CA GOP believed that the newly drawn districts favored the Democratic Party and feared that Democrats could capture a two-thirds majority in the 2012 elections. In an effort to block the Democrats, the referendum’s sponsors petitioned:

“State Senate districts are revised every ten years following the federal census. This year, the voter-approved California Citizens Redistricting Commission revised the boundaries of the 40 Senate districts. This referendum petition, if signed by the required number of registered voters and filed with the Secretary of State, will: (1) Place the revised State Senate boundaries on the ballot and prevent them from taking effect unless approved by the voters at the next statewide election; and (2) Require court-appointed officials to set interim boundaries for use in the next statewide election.”

Typically, the process of gathering the requisite signatures to qualify a referendum like this would suspend the law in question. In the case of Prop 40, however, the CA Supreme Court issued a ruling that the state Senate district map would be used for the 2012 elections.

The proponents of the referendum campaigning for “no” votes on Prop 40 have therefore stopped their efforts. In the California official voter guide, GOP activist, Julie Vandermost, stated:

“As the Official Sponsor of Proposition 40, our intention was to make sure its qualification for the ballot would stop the current Senate District lines from being implemented in 2012. The Supreme Court reviewed the process and intervened to keep district lines in place. With the court’s action, this measure is not needed and we are no longer asking for a NO vote.”

While the ballot referendum is perhaps dead, the Court’s endorsement of the work of the Commission may signal a turn away from partisan intervention in the electoral arena.

Voters are left with a deserted referendum, which asks anyways, “Do you want to keep the state Senate districts certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2011?”

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