Despite having been overruled by the state’s Supreme Court, the California Proposition 40 senate redistricting could create unpredictable consequences. Prop 40 was a response by Republicans who believe the recently redrawn state senate districts are unfair and favor Democrats. However, in January, the California Supreme Court ordered that the new districts be used. Thus, Prop 40 became meaningless and even its supporters stopped campaigning for it. This should be the end of the story but it is not, because of the way the proposition is worded.
Proposition 40 summary:
- A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, new State Senate districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
- If the new districts are rejected, the State Senate district boundary lines will be adjusted by officials supervised by the California Supreme Court.
- State Senate districts are revised every 10 years following the federal census.
Even though its backers have abandoned Proposition 40, it remains on the ballot as a referendum. A yes vote on a referendum always means that the voter supports the current government measure, in this case the new Senate districts. However, Proposition 40 is at the bottom of the list of the eleven propositions on the ballot. By the time voters reach it, they may already be confused by previous propositions. When voters are confused by a proposition, they tend to vote no.
To maintain the status quo, Californians need to vote yes on Prop. 40. But will they? History shows that Californians typically vote no on ballot measures when they’re unsure about them. With Republicans abandoning the measure, there are not likely to be many campaign ads for or against Prop. 40 in the next few weeks. Voters may know little about it when they arrive at the polls.
Furthermore, there’s always some voter confusion about what yes and no votes mean on referendums. I support overturning the Senate districts, so that means I should vote yes, right?
No! Voting yes on Prop 40 supports the new districts. A no vote rejects the new districts. If Prop 40 fails and the new districts are rejected, then it will stand in apparent direct opposition to the state Supreme Court ruling – sort of.
If the new districts are rejected, the State Senate district boundary lines will be adjusted by officials supervised by the California Supreme Court.