Debra J. Saunders

Proposition 11 would set up a independent panel to carve out districts only for California's 80 state Assembly seats, 40 state Senate seats and the five-member Board of Equalization. The mechanisms for selecting the panel seem about as convoluted as the weaning out process of a reality TV series. According to the secretary of state's summary of the constitutional initiative, government auditors select 60 registered voters from an applicant pool. Then legislative leaders select five Dems, five Repubs and four voters from neither major party. Three Democratic commissioners, three Republicans and three Neithers must approve the new boundaries.

Me? I'd rather see a panel of retired judges draw the lines -- as they so aptly did after the 1990 census, when GOP Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a Democratic gerrymander plan and threw the hot potato to the white-haired robes. Stern notes that retired judges also did a fine job in the 1970s when the California Supreme Court appointed a panel of three to draw districts. Be it noted, minority groups fared quite well with retired judges, but in this politically-correct environment, reformers dare not put redistricting in the hands of a group that is largely old, largely white and largely male.

Hence, the convoluted 14-voter panel. Said Stern: "It's complicated, but it's fair and also it's not partisan." And: "The odds are against it because it's very difficult to pass something that's this processed oriented. It does take a lot of understanding to vote yes on this."

Better to concentrate on this basic argument that the Legislature cannot be trusted.

In the ballot argument against Proposition 11, opponents argue that this 14-member panel is unelected and hence unrepresentative. "If the party representatives don't go along, nothing gets done," warn the forces who are fronting for party biggies.

Hmmm. Nothing gets done? Sort of reminds me of this year's too-late, too-gimmicky, too-pricey -- and worst of all, utterly unbalanced -- state budget, in a way that will only make next year's budgeting even worse.

It's simple. The current districts tilt too far to the left or too far to the right. As a result, California elects very liberal Democrats and very conservative Republicans. Bad districts produce too few moderates. Bad districts produce legislators who have little incentive to compromise. Bad districts produce bad budgets. You like bad budgets, vote against Proposition 11.

Debra J. Saunders

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