Rivals put redistricting measures before voters

Still flying somewhat under the radar of most voters are two dueling measures on the November 2 ballot that will dictate how California's major political districts will be drawn in the future.

Proposition 20 would expand the duties of the recently established Citizens Redistricting Commission to include drawing the boundaries for California's congressional districts.

Meanwhile, critics of the new citizens commission, are asking voters to approve Proposition 27 - which would return the responsibility to determine all political district boundaries back to the Legislature and eliminate the commission altogether.

Because the two measure would make overlapping changes, if both are approved - the proposition with the greater number of votes in support would become law.

Some pundits have said that Proposition 27 was politically inspired to confuse voters on both measures, hoping both would go down in defeat - but supporters of the proposal say it's about accountability.

"Under current law, three randomly selected accountants decide who can be one of the fourteen unelected commissioners who head a bureaucracy that wields the power to decide who represents us," said former Fair Political Practices Commission Chairman Daniel Lowenstein, who is leading the Proposition 27 support campaign.

"This reform will ensure that those who make the decisions are accountable to the voters and that all their decisions are subject to approval by the voters," he said.

It is also interesting to note others backing Proposition 27 include Haim Saban, entertainment executive who created the "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" and frequent donor to Democrats; and Rep. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood, and his brother Michael, a Democratic consultant. A number of current members of Congress from California have also contributed money to the campaign including former state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The rival measure, Proposition 20, is being backed by California Common Cause and the California Chamber of Commerce. If approved, the measure would take the responsibility to determine boundaries for California's congressional districts away from the State Legislature. Instead, the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission would take over that function.

The commission, created when voters approved Proposition 11 in 2008, has been empowered to draw new district boundaries for the State Assembly, State Senate, and the Board of Equalization beginning after the 2010 census. The 2008 proposition did not change the process for drawing the boundaries of California's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Supporters of the measure say state lawmakers have a conflict of interest in drawing the district lines for Congressional offices that some eventually might run for.

"Proposition 20 will put an end to legislators drawing election districts for their friends in Congressâdistricts that virtually guarantee Members of Congress get reelected even when they don't listen to voters," supporters of the measure said in their ballot argument.

"Proposition 20 will create fair congressional districts that make our congressional representatives more accountable to voters and make it easier to vote them out of office when they don't do their jobs," the ballot argument said.

Citing a report from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, opponents said that if the measure is approved, costs for redistricting will go up by "several million dollars" every ten years.

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