State and National Reform Groups Endorse Prop. 77
Steve Blackledge, CALPIRG
Derek Cressman, TheRestofUs.org
State and National Reform Groups Endorse Prop. 77
COMMON CAUSE, CALPIRG, AND THERESTOFUS.ORG JOIN COALITION TO TAKE THE POWER TO DRAW ELECTORAL DISTRICTS OUT OF HANDS OF PARTISAN POLITICIANS
Sacramento – Today, three key reform organizations joined a diverse coalition of organizations in favor of Prop. 77, a measure on the November 8 ballot that would remove the redistricting process from the hands of politicians and give the job to retired judges who would draw fair district lines.
Common Cause, a national organization that called for a nationwide movement to take the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan officials in January, CALPIRG, a state consumer advocacy organization with a long, rich history of working on political reform, and TheRestofUs.org, a non-profit political watchdog that has often critiqued Governor Schwarzenegger’s political fundraising, announced their support of Proposition 77.
“The current system, where self-interested politicians are responsible for drawing political boundaries, is rotten to the core. It’s time to get the fox out of the henhouse and to put an end to California’s rigged system of elections. Prop. 77 takes the power to draw legislative and congressional districts out of the hands of partisan legislators in Sacramento and puts the issue before the voters. This proposal is not perfect, none ever is. But this is an important first step, and I urge the people of California to vote yes on Prop. 77,” said Chellie Pingree, national president of Common Cause.
In January 2005, Common Cause launched a nationwide campaign to reform how state legislative and Congressional districts are drawn, with the goals of taking the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan politicians, and to establish fair criteria to guide the redistricting process. Common Cause is pushing to reform the redistricting process in states across the nation in order to create competitive legislative and congressional districts that are accountable to the people.
Today, California’s system of drawing election districts is rigged. Partisan legislators are in charge of drawing their own districts – letting politicians choose their voters instead of the other way around.
“Politicians grow less responsive to their constituents when they sit in districts drawn by them to protect themselves from competition,” said Steve Blackledge, Legislative Director of CALPIRG. “Time and again they defeat popular public interest measures while passing laws that please special interests. Prop. 77 will bring about greater competition, thus ensuring greater accountability and responsiveness. Politicians, though, would prefer safe seats to competitive elections, and that’s why they’re so vehemently opposing this measure.”
“The current system is a sham,” said Derek Cressman of TheRestofUs.org. “When politicians don’t have to worry about reelection, it tilts the scales in favor of the moneyed special interests, to the detriment of the people’s interests. Prop 77 restores fairness and balance to the system where voters once again become relevant. The opposition of Republican Congressman John Doolittle and Democratic Congressman Howard Berman shows that politicians of all political stripes prefer safely gerrymandered districts to robust competition,” added Cressman.
Under the reforms in Prop. 77, a bi-partisan and independent panel of retired judges will be in charge of drawing fair and competitive district lines. These judges would be required to solicit input from the public and draw district lines that are fair and respect the integrity of communities, cities and counties. They won’t be able to consider political registration or party affiliation – unlike the current system. Prop. 77 gives voters the final input by requiring the new districts be approved by voters.
In addition to removing the process from self-interested incumbents and making it harder for individual politicians to protect their own seats, Prop. 77 will likely produce a modest increase in the number of districts that are competitive between the two major parties. Competitive districts will provide a new level of accountability to voters. Requiring legislators to stand for reelection in competitive districts will ensure that politicians pay closer attention to the people.
Common Cause is a national network of active citizens who fight to ensure that powerful institutions in society – including government, corporations and the news media – serve the public interest, not narrow special interests. www.commoncause.org
CALPIRG is a statewide consumer advocacy organization with a long, rich history of working on political reform. For more information about CALPIRG’s positions on the special election ballot questions, visit www.calpirg.org.
TheRestofUs.org is a non-partisan watchdog committed to exposing the role of big money in politics and telling citizens what they can do about it. In February, the organization endorsed Governor Schwarzenegger’s call for redistricting reform. TheRestofUs.org supports redistricting reform that will result in fairness, competition and a plan that maintains geographic communities. www.TheRestofUs.org