Official Results
Yes votes:
3,130,541 [40.2%]
No votes:
4,641,633 [59.8%]

Introduction

Redistricting is the redrawing of boundaries for legislative districts to reflect changes in population. The California Constitution entrusts the state legislature with adjusting Senatorial, Assembly, Congressional, and Board of Equalization districts every 10 years following the national census (California Constitution, Article XXI). The governor has the authority to approve or veto proposed districts. Redistricting and reapportionment, the allocation of seats to states, help determine the partisan makeup of our legislative bodies, and strongly affect the representation of ethnic groups and geographic areas within the state. The high political stakes of redistricting and reapportionment have led to recurring struggles over control of the process. The initiative on the Nov. 8 2005 special election ballot transfers authority to redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries from the legislature to a panel of retired judges, and requires new districts for the 2006 election.

Background & Chronology: Redistricting in California

CALIFORNIA REDISTRICTING CHRONOLOGY

2000 - People's Advocate qualified Proposition 24 on the March 7 ballot to transfer authority for reapportionment from the legislature to the California Supreme Court, pending voter approval. The California Supreme Court removed Prop. 24 from the ballot, declaring it to be in violation of the single-subject rule for initiative measures due to the inclusion of unrelated provisions concerning legislators' pay. The 2001 redistricting plan was enacted in two separate bills: AB632 covering Senate and Congressional districts, and SB802 covering Assembly and Board of Equalization districts. The bills passed the legislature September 13, 2001, and were signed by the governor September 26, 2001.

1990 - In September 1991, following the inability of the California governor and legislature to agree on a reapportionment plan, the California Supreme Court appointed three special masters to propose a plan. The masters presented their plan to the Supreme Court in early November, and the Supreme Court adopted the plan on January 27, 1992. Two last hurdles, a federal court challenge and passing muster with the U.S. Department of Justice on Voting Rights Act grounds, were quickly met, and the plan was implemented in time for the June 1992 elections.

1980 - In September 1981 Democratic majorities in the legislature enacted a plan for Senate, Assembly and Congressional districts. The plan was used in the 1982 elections only. The Republican Party backed successful referendum measures that overturned the plan in the June 1982 election (Propositions 10, 11 and 12). However, the state Supreme Court had already ruled that the 1982 elections would proceed according to the plan. Following voter rejection of a redistricting reform proposal on the November 1982 ballot (Proposition 14), the legislature quickly enacted a second--and final--redistricting plan in December 1982.

1970 - In 1971 the governor vetoed the legislature's reapportionment act. The California Supreme Court appointed three Special Masters to recommend to the Court plans for possible adoption together with their underlying rationale. The Special Masters report was adopted by the Court in November 1973.

Recent Proposals

In 2004-05 a number of redistricting proposals were put forward through both legislative and ballot measure channels. In addition, a redistricting model law was proposed by a coalition of public interest organizations. See below for links to the texts of proposals.

Model Law

  • Model State Redistricting Law: "California Fair Redistricting Act".
    Asian Pacific American Legal Center, California Common Cause, California League of Women Voters, Center for Governmental Studies.
    June 2005.

Initiatives


For a complete list, go to Active Initiatives provided by the Office of the Attorney General.

Bills in the California Legislature

  • Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (1st Ex. Sess.) 
    Introduced by Assembly Members Canciamilla and Richman. 
    February 11, 2005 
    A resolution to propose to the people of the State of California an amendment to the Constitution of the State, by repealing and adding Section 1 of Article XXI thereof, relating to redistricting.
  • Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3 (1st Ex. Sess.) 
    Introduced by Assembly Members McCarthy and Runner, January 13, 2005. 
    Amended in Assembly, March 2, 2005. 
    A resolution to propose to the people of the State of California an amendment to the Constitution of the State, by amending Section 1 of, and adding Sections 2, 3, and 4 to, Article XXI thereof, relating to elections.
  • Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 
    Introduced by Assembly Member Maze. 
    Dec. 6, 2004 
    A resolution to propose to the people of the State of California an amendment to the Constitution of the State, by amending Section 1 of, and adding Sections 2, 3, and 4 to, Article XXI thereof, relating to elections.
  • Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 
    Introduced by Senator Lowenthal. 
    Dec. 6, 2004, amended June 13, 2005, amended June 27, 2005. 
    A resolution to propose to the people of the State of California an amendment to the Constitution of the State, by repealing and adding Section 1 of Article XXI thereof, relating to redistricting.

See the spreadsheet Redistricting Initiatives and Bills Comparison Chart for detailed descriptions of the proposals.

The following report includes analysis of three of the proposed measures: Costa's initiative, ACAX1 3 (McCarthy) and SCA 3 (Lowenthal): Weisbard, Ari; Wilkinson, Jeannie, Drawing lines: a public interest guide to real redistricting reform, Los Angeles, CA: Center for Governmental Studies, 2005.

In general, proposals differ in the following attributes:

When effective?

Some proposals would become effective immediately, triggering mid-decade redistricting. Some exempt congressional districts until the next regular redistricting in 2011. Still others would reform the process for all districts, but not take effect until 2011.

Who draws the maps?

Some proposals call for new districts to be drawn by a panel of retired judges chosen from a pool of applicants identified by the California Judicial Council. Others include more input from legislative leaders in the selection of judges. Still others call for independent redistricting commissions whose members are not necessarily judges.

How competitive?

Proposals differ in the degree to which they seek to create competitive districts. Some proposals prohibit consideration of the potential effects on incumbents or political parties. Others require a voter registration difference of 7% or less between the two major political parties in each district.

Nesting?

Some proposals would require that Senatorial districts be comprised of two contiguous Assembly districts, a practice known as nesting.

What role for voters?

Some proposals would send the final redistricting plans to the voters for approval. Others would become effective when approved by the redistricting panel or commission.

Entitled "Redistricting Reform: The Voter Empowerment Act," this initiative is authored by Ted Costa, a founder of the 2003 gubernatorial recall. The key provisions of the initiative:

  • 2001 boundaries would be voided. Redistricting of Senatorial, Assembly, Congressional, and Board of Equalization districts would begin within 20 days of passage.
  • A panel of three retired judges, called Special Masters, would draw the new districts.
  • Details of the process for selecting the Special Masters from a pool of 16 retired judges who have never held partisan office are at "Redistricting Reform: The Voter Empowerment Act" SECTION 2. This selection process includes the participation of legislative leaders.
  • Criteria for redistricting would include population parity, compliance with federal statutes (including the Voting Rights Act), and to the greatest extent practicable, the preservation of county and city lines.
  • No consideration given as to the potential effects on incumbents or political parties. No data regarding the voting history of electors may be used, except as required by federal law.
  • The final redistricting plan would be submitted to the voters as an initiative statute in the next general election.
  • If the voters reject the plan, a new panel of Special Masters is appointed and the process begins again.

Full text of the initiative as submitted to the California Attorney General is athttp://www.ag.ca.gov/initiatives/pdf/sa2004rf0037_amdt_1_ns.pdf.

Arguments For the Initiative:

Supporters of the initiative argue that the current system allows legislators to draw district lines that eliminate competition and preserve the current partisan balance. They maintain that taking the process out of the hands of politicians will lead to districts that are more responsive to voters. Supporters of redistricting reform contend that more competitive races will lead to more moderate legislators.

Arguments Against the Initiative:

Opponents of the initiative say that it opens the door to constant revisions. They contend that the current partisan balance in the state Legislature is closely matched to the balance of total votes by party in the state. They argue that redistricting is inherently political and promising to de-politicize it will only create false and harmful expectations. They contend that the current California Constitution procedures for redistricting appropriately give elected legislators the authority to make decisions on behalf of the people they represent.

Legal Challenges to the Costa Initiative

On July 21 Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian ruled that the qualifying signatures for Proposition 77 were gathered illegally and ordered it removed from the ballot. Backers of the proposition improperly submitted one version of the measure to the state Attorney General for preparation of the official title and summary, and used a different version to collect signatures. Proponents of the proposition argued that the differences are immaterial, but Judge Ohanesian ruled that they "go to the substantive terms of the measure."

On July 25 the Third District Court of Appeal temporarily suspended the measure's removal from the ballot, allowing it to be included in the public review period for initiatives. The request to allow public review was part of an appeal by Costa to reverse the Superior Court's disqualification of the measure.

The Court of Appeal ruled on August 9 that the discrepencies between the two versions of the initiative constituted "a clear violation of the constitutional and statutory procedure for the circulating of an initiative petition." The following day the backers of the measure submitted an appeal to the California Supreme Court.

On August 12 the California Supreme Court ruled that "it would not be appropriate to deny the electorate the opportunity to vote" on the measure, thereby placing Proposition 77 back on the ballot.

Official Voter Information

Official Voter Information Guide

Campaign Finance: 
Individual Campaign Committees
Total Contributions and Expenditures (select "Nov. 2005 election" and "Prop. 77" in dropdown boxes)

Key Websites

League of Women Voters
Prop. 77 site.

FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy 
See the Redistricting area of this website, especially Mapping our Future: A Public Interest Guide to Redistricting, which includes information on redistricting in all 50 states. 

Statewide Database
The Statewide Database (SWDB) is the redistricting database for the state of California. This website includes reports and documentation, downloads, and recent California redistricting news.

Public Opinion

CA Propositions 75, 76, 77 Defeated; Propositions 73, 74 Could Go Either Way . SurveyUSA, Election Poll #7443, Nov. 7, 2005.

Schwarzenegger Propositions Still Trailing: Three of four ballot initiatives backed by Governor are behind
and Proposition 75 is now in a dead heat. Support for both prescription drug initiatives falls. Polimetrix poll, Nov. 6, 2005.

"Voters moving to the NO side on each of the three health-related ballot initiatives – Propositions 73, 78 and 79," Field Poll, Release 2175, Nov. 2, 2005.

Propositions 73, 74, 75, 77 Losing Ground . Survey USA, Election Poll #7362, Nov. 1, 2005.

Baldassare, Mark.
PPIC Statewide Survey: Special Survey on Californians and the Initiative Process. San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California, October 2005. 
[Website archived in Internet Archive]

"Both prescription drug initiatives, Props. 78 and 79, are leading, but few voters can identify the proponents of each initiative. Voters divided on Prop. 73, the Parental Notification of Teen Abortion initiative," Field Poll, Release 2169, Sept. 6, 2005.

Baldassare, Mark.
Special Survey on Californians and the Initiative Process. San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California, Public Policy Institute, September 2005

"Union dues consent initiative getting heavy initial support, as do two drug discount propositions. Voters narrowly back parental notification for teen abortion," Field Poll, Release 2160, June 22, 2005.

"Two-thirds of California voters want no changes or favor easing existing abortion laws," Field Poll, Release 2080, July 31, 2003

"Davis and Simon supporters differ markedly on the issues of abortion and gun control," Field Poll, Release 2043, May 8, 2002

Reports and Studies

Johnson, Douglas; Lampe, Elise; Levitt, Justin; Lee, Andrew. 
California's Need for Redistricting Reform and the Likely Impact of Proposition 77. Claremont, CA: Rose Institute of State and Local Government, Sept. 26, 2005.

Committee for No on 77.
Proposition 77 - A White Paper.
Includes a response to Rose Institute report above. [Website archived in Internet Archive]

Weisbard, Ari; Wilkinson, Jeannie.
Drawing lines: a public interest guide to real redistricting reform. Los Angeles, CA: Center for Governmental Studies, February 2005, updated June 2005. [Website archived in Internet Archive

Common Cause Education Fund.
Designer Districts: Safe Seats Tailor Made for Incumbents. Washington, D.C.: Common Cause Education Fund, April 2005.

Commonwealth Club of California. 
Transcript of Round Table on Redistricting, March 17 2005.

Johnson, Douglas.
Competitive districts in California: A case study of California's redistricting in the 1990's: The Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College, Feb. 21, 2005. 

Garrett, Elizabeth.
Apportionment: Another California revolution?: Initiative and Referendum Institute Report 2005-1, University of Southern California, February 2005.