Statement of Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause On Redistricting in California

February 17: 2005 In California and around the country we have a broken system where elected officials are choosing the voters they want to represent instead of the other way around. We need to put the power to draw political lines in the hands of independent, nonpartisan commissions and we need strong and fair criteria for drawing the districts. This will put the power back in the hands of the voters. For decades partisan wrangling has led to gerrymandered redistricting maps and collusion among the major political parties. That system does more to protect the interests of incumbents than to serve the voters. The end result is that voters in California effectively have little choice in who they elect to office.

It’s time to put an end to this rotten system. That’s why we join Governor Schwarzenegger today in calling on the California legislature to pass meaningful redistricting reform. We agree that we must have a truly independent commission responsible for drawing district lines. We agree that that we have to have strong and fair criteria that protect the interest of voters. The amendments we have agreed, if passed by the legislature and accepted by the people, would make the California redistricting process one of the strongest, fairest and most independent in the nation. We urge the California Legislature to do the people’s business, to get beyond partisanship and narrow self-interest, and to refer this measure to the people of California.

Common Cause has been pushing for 30 years to establish independent commissions with fair and clear criteria to do the work of redistricting. The time is ripe to redouble our efforts, to work with fair-minded Republicans, Democrats and others to fix this problem. It is too important to wait any longer. We need to put the power to draw political lines in California, and across the country (in Florida, and in Texas), in the hands of truly independent commissions and we need to put the power of the vote back in the hands of the voter. We are glad to be here today, standing with Governor Schwarzenegger to launch this effort as part of our multi-state campaign to reform how state legislative and Congressional districts are drawn.