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Mark Hamilton

Mark Hamilton


Give California Citizens Redistricting Commission a Chance

One Prop Would Kill It, One Would Expand Its Powers Prematurely


Two propositions on the November ballot deal with how the boundaries will be drawn for California’s state legislative and U.S. Congressional district boundaries. These are Props 20 and 27. I am opposed to both.

The process of redrawing these boundaries occurs every 10 years based upon the results of our national census. Just two years ago, the voters approved Proposition 11, authorizing the creation of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw California state legislative and California Board of Equalization district boundaries.

This commission was formed because California voters wanted to create a process for drawing new state legislative boundaries that was removed from the bias and self-interest of a gridlocked, partisan California legislature. The hope is that an independent commission comprised of citizen voters would draw districts based on non-partisan rules that would put the best interests of communities first, and end gerrymandering designed to protect incumbent legislators of both parties.

I applied to be on this commission and can assure you that applicants were questioned extensively on their thoughts concerning how boundaries could be drawn fairly and equitably. This was to assure that the various interests and populations would be adequately represented without giving unfair advantage to any one group or political party. Unfortunately I wasn’t selected. I would like to have served. Based on my experience, and knowing that those who were selected went through the same processes and responded to the same challenging topics that I did, I am confident they will put their full energy into doing what they believe is best for California and it’s citizens. I hope that the process of selecting the members insures the commission’s ability to reach consensus and avoid the gridlock that people feared would develop if the state legislators remained in control of redrawing their own boundaries.

Will the California Citizens Redistricting Commission devolve into gridlock? Will the bureaucracy supporting the commission take control due to members not having the background, expertise, or firmness to resist outside influence? It could happen, but I don’t think so.

I think it is a process that should be given the chance to meet the hopes of the people of California. I believe it should be allowed to proceed and succeed. That’s why I oppose Proposition 27, which would kill the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

I also oppose Proposition 20, which would expand the commission’s responsibilities and task them with the additional job of redrawing Congressional district boundaries.

We have no idea about the selected members’ knowledge about Congressional boundaries, their views about what topics and problems should be considered; nor do we have any idea as to whether the structure of the commission is a good one for this job. Further, the topics, questions and explanations of the duties of the commission all related to redrawing California state legislative boundaries. There were no topics, questions, explanations, or definitions that related to drawing Congressional boundaries. Californians voted for this commission based upon its job description, the process for choosing the members, and the structure of the commission.

I believe the commission’s structure and process is a worthy experiment. It represents a hope for success but that success is not assured. We should let it work. See how it does. Only if it succeeds should its powers be expanded. Our democratic structures are built to meet the needs of citizens far into the future. They are not created as temporary panaceas only to be changed as other conflicts arise. They are built to temper conflicts and assure fair representation of a variety of opinions and needs.

Let’ give the Citizens Redistricting Commission the opportunity to do what it was charged with doing. It may need some modification along the way. Once we experience its success or failure then we can decide if this process should be applied to Congressional district boundaries. For the reasons outlined above I oppose Proposition 27 and 20.

Mark Hamilton is a former Peace Corps volunteer, a retired local teacher, and community activist serving on the boards of several local nonprofits.

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