1. Take any map of California that shows the regions of the state.
2. Make those regions our legislative districts.
Now, perhaps you could have some debate about which regions are which. From a quick Internet scan, I like this tourism map. The California Postsecondary Education Commission also has a useful map of the state's regions. But once you decide what the state's regions are, it's pretty easy from there.
You just junk the broken, British-colonial system of single-member legislative districts. Few people in California even know what district they're in. But they do know which region they live in. So simply by making each region a multi-member legislative district, the problem of redistricting is solved.
The number of members in each regional district would be determined by population, so as to comply with one-person, one-vote requirements. Elections to fill the seats could be determined any number of ways within a system that uses some form of proportional representation.
Such a system does what Prop 11 and Prop 20 promised to do but can't do: Create competitive seats. In fact, regional multi-member districts create competition everywhere, even in the most Democratic and Republican regions. Because every vote gets you closer to one more seat.
And when every vote is meaningful, every vote really counts - in a way that's impossible under our current district set up. Even a Republican in the Bay Area has incentive to show up to vote in such a system. Right now, a Bay Area Republican who bothers to vote in a legislative election is wasting her time. Such regional districts would thus create huge incentives for civic engagement and voter participation - areas in which California lags the national average.
All this, without a redistricting commission, without "visualizations," without draft maps, without consultants with partisan pasts, and without yelling or screaming about district lines. No, the power would not be with the line drawers. The power would rest with the voters, who would finally be casting ballots in real elections.
Redistricting is easy.
(Joe Mathews is a journalist and Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. Mathews blogs at foxandhoundsdaily.com where this column was first posted.) –cw
Tags: redistricting, Prop 11, Prop 20, California, Mathews
Vol 9 Issue 46
Pub: June 10, 2011