NO on Prop. 77

Redistricting now means keeping California’s liberal political money at home, when the Democrats desperately need it nationally.

Two updates, one with crucial detail.

If you want the Republicans to keep control of the Congress next year, you should vote YES on California’s Prop. 77, the Schwarzenegger redistricting plan. Else, not. If Prop. 77 passes, the Democrats have virtually no shot at retaking the House or the Senate.

And that’s not because a redistricting would cost us seats in California. It might have the opposite effect; honest redistricting puts more seats in play, and 2006 looks like a bad year for the Republicans.

But redistricting now means, inevitably, creating lots of competitive races for incumbents who would otherwise walk back to Washington. That means that tens of millions of dollars in liberal money that would normally flow from California to places where it’s needed will instead stay right here. If you want to have, Howard Berman (for example) raising money for himself rather than challengers for GOP-held marginal seats nationally, go ahead and drink that handsome Mr. Terminator’s nice Kool-Aid.

Without that money, there’s no way the Democrats can stay competitive nationally. And that means no Congressional investigations of the Bush/DeLay/Abramoff/Norquist Kleptocracy in the run-up to 2008.

Seems to me like a rather high price to pay for a transint warm and fuzzy feeling for having voted for good government and against gerrymandering.

Update Kos makes the case for Prop. 77, based in part on Chuck Todd’s idea that supporting Prop. 77 would somehow help comparable measures in Ohio and Florida. I’m not sure why he thinks that. Kos also notes that “the liberal CalPIRG” has endorsed it. Ummm…the last time I checked, CalPIRG, like the other PIRGs, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Public Citizen, aka Ralph Nader, Inc. Now think about it for a minute: as between Nancy Pelosi and Ralph Nader, which one is more likely to be right about what’s good for Democratic chances of re-taking the House?

Second update A reader reports:

My “no” vote is predicated on the following section of the proposed law:

(f) District boundaries shall conform to the geographic boundaries of a county, city, or city and county to the greatest extent practicable. In this regard, a redistricting plan shall comply with these criteria in the following order of importance:

(1) create the most whole counties possible,

(2) create the fewest county fragments possible,

(3) create the most whole cities possible, and

(4) create the fewest city fragments possible, except as necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section.

(g) Every district shall be as compact as practicable except to the extent necessary to comply with the requirements of the preceding subdivisions of this section. With regard to compactness, to the extent practicable a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant.

This is a recipe not for competitive districts, but for neutralizing Democratic votes as much as possible by concentrating them in urban-county bantustans.

Just look at this table if the effect isn’t immediately clear. LA, Santa Clara, Alameda and SF would be around 20 CDs with 65/35 D/R splits. SD, Orange, San Berdoo, Riverside, Sacto and Contra Costa would be around 18 CDs with 45/55 D/R splits.

As an under-the-radar attempt to defang California’s urban Democratic voters, it’s crass partisan, cultural and class warfare of the worst kind. Ugh, ptui.

Uggabugga has a nice graphic showing how “compact districting” may not be as “neutral” as it sounds. Steven Hill at Mother Jones looks at the issue more systematically: with Democrats concentrated in urban areas, Republicans can win a majority of the seats with a minority of the votes.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: