New lines are in the process of being established in California and around the nation for Congress, state legislatures, local supervisors, city councils et al. In California, an independent commission draws congressional and state legislature lines, removing one of the most contentious issues from our state.
But that hasn’t always been the case and it isn’t how most states draw their lines. In a country that heavily favors Democrats, the gerrymandering being promoted by Trump activists is part of ongoing voter suppression policies that allow a shrinking conservative population to maintain minority power, while diminishing the growing population of people of color in our nation.
Years ago, the state budget that requires a two-thirds vote was regularly held up around reapportionment time. Not for policy reasons, but to insure a deal to protect incumbent members. The result split communities, ensured full employment to career politicians and preserved the status quo.
California changed their reapportionment system to a fair, independent commission that has worked well—and much to the advantage of Democrats. In fact, the Democrats gained the ability to pass the budget with a two-thirds majority in the Legislature.
Ironically, it was Republicans who always complained they could not get to a majority because of Democratic gerrymandering. But simple math should have alerted these geniuses to the reality of the population. Democrats were always going to pick up seats in a fair redistricting. Instead of Congresswoman Maxine Waters winning by 89% of the vote in 1998, she only wins by 71% of the vote in her current district.
Has Waters changed? The answer is no, but 18% of her Democratic vote went to another district in a fair reelection; expanding the Democrats’ ability to win in another district as voter demographics heavily favor Democrats.
This was an argument I made to now-deceased California politician John Vasconcellos in 1990, a fair reapportionment favors increased Democratic power. But that was not the priority. The first goal of state legislators, at the time, was stay in office. That went for Republicans and Democrats.
John Burton, a former senate majority leader, made a deal with Republicans to pass the budget in 2010. California added one new Democratic seat because of population growth, but let the Republicans keep their current districts essentially intact. The result was a budget for California at the expense of increasing the chance for a Democratic majority in Congress.
But that compromise was short-lived. Through initiative the voters changed the reapportionment process that held up the budget, also in 2010. The result was a new redistricting of California by independent committee for 2012.
The result shocked Republicans and put Democrats firmly in charge of the government with a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature. Arithmetic can be a blast of cold water.
Also as a result, California added five more House seats at the national level.
But most states don’t have an independent commission. Pennsylvania is clearly a Democratic state by population, but the Legislature is Republican due to gerrymandering. They don’t have an independent commission. Neither do the worst offenders of Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, West Virginia, Utah, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina or Maryland, with only the last state favoring Democrats.
In short, gerrymandering by minority Republicans has resulted in apartheid governments that prevent the majority from governing or people of color, women and other disparate groups from obtaining any power at all.
In 2018, the national vote for U.S. Senate was 53 million votes for Democrats and 35 million votes for Republicans. Republicans picked up two Senate seats to increase their majority.
Hence, the idea of democracy in America is currently a sham.
The solution to the problem comes from an unlikely source: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Terminator has been pushing for independent redistricting commissions in all 50 states.
But the effort will take time and is heavily opposed by entrenched incumbents, especially in Republican states. Currently, with the flip in Virginia, the minority party controls 31 states. With gerrymandering currently underway, the House will certainly become more Republican in the 2022 election if a solution is not found.
The quickest way to change the dynamic is for Democratic voters from California to move to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas and Ohio. If just 100,000 Democrats went from California to these states, we could establish an electoral majority even under the apartheid rules that currently exist.
To incentivize Californians to move, the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee could incentivize people to move out of state. Some states are already doing this for economic reasons. New residents would improve the economy of their new state, while relieving traffic and infrastructure overload in California.
To pay for it, Democrats spent almost $7 billion on national campaigns in 2020. Democrats could offer $10,000 to 500,000 people as an incentive to move. As people are cashing out of California anyway, giving them a reason to live in these new states makes more sense than the current wasted dollars spent by parties on useless negative television advertising.
We may even offer more if companies decide to relocate, as they are doing in Texas. But why wait? Let’s make Texas blue now. This apartheid system has got to end.
San José Spotlight columnist Rich Robinson is a political consultant, attorney and author of “The Shadow Candidate.” His columns appear every fourth Wednesday of the month.
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