The Red and Blue Golden State: Why California's Proposition 11 Will Not Produce More Competitive Elections
64 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2018 Last revised: 5 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 16, 2011
In November 2008, Californians approved a redistricting reform measure, Proposition 11, which, despite the promises of its supporters, will have little effect on the competitiveness of the state‘s elections. The initiative shifted responsibility for the redrawing of state legislative lines from the Legislature to an appointed commission. Supporters promised that by taking the process from self-interested legislators, the resulting districts would be more competitive. However, an analysis of the state‘s demographics and the experience of other states suggests that a significant increase in the competitiveness of California‘s legislative districts remains unlikely and may even be undesirable. Indeed, because of the give-and-take nature of the redistricting process, California would be served best by keeping the initial responsibility for redrawing legislative lines with the Legislature. A redistricting commission would be most helpful if it focused on reviewing and revising plans developed by the Legislature, rather than actually drawing the initial plan itself.
This article first reviews the legal standards applicable to redistricting in California. It then discusses the most recent redistrictings and the five failed attempts that have been made to alter the redistricting process through ballot initiatives. Section II addresses Proposition 11, the campaign, and the 2008 general election. Section III explores the benefits and detriments resulting from more competitive district elections, the much-touted benefit of Proposition 11. Section IV analyzes the decline in competitive elections in California and the non-redistricting causes of this decline. Section V looks to the experiences of other states that have employed commissions and imposed competitiveness standards on the drawing of their legislative districts. Finally, the last two sections discuss the likelihood that Proposition 11‘s redistricting commission will be able to draw more competitive districts and present an alternative approach that would provide redistricting roles for both an independent commission and the Legislature.
Keywords: redistricting, elections
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation