Voters Pass Redistricting Reforms in California, Florida and Minnesota

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Mary Boyle
(202)736-5770

Voters Pass Redistricting Reforms in California, Florida and Minnesota

WASHINGTON - Voters in California, Florida and Minnesota embraced
redistricting reform ballot measures on Election Day, sending a strong
message that they are fed up with party leaders and incumbents
hand-picking their own districts. 

California voters strongly rejected a proposal to eliminate an
independent redistricting commission, while also voting to expand its
scope to draw congressional boundaries, as well. The Voters First
Initiative, written by California Common Cause and approved by voters in
2008, established a new citizens’ commission comprised of five
Democrats, five Republicans, and four other members to draw political
boundaries for the California legislature.

In Florida, voters approved two ballot amendments by margins of more than 60 percent that
set new rules for redrawing legislative and congressional districts,
requiring that both be compact, equal in population and make use of
existing city, county and geographical boundaries. The amendments
prohibit drawing districts to favor or disfavor an incumbent or
political party.

To the north, voters in Minneapolis approved a referendum
that removes political parties from the redistricting process.
Political parties will no longer be able to directly appoint people to
the redistricting commission – now a judge will do that using an
application process.

“Voters are tired of politicians putting their self interest
over the public interest by carving up our communities to create safe
seats for themselves,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “It’s
time to put an end to the corrupt practice of gerrymandering, and I’m
glad to see voters in two of our largest states, California and Florida,
and in Minneapolis, leading the way.”

“This is a big win for holding government accountable to the people,” Edgar said.

In California, more than 30,000 people have applied to serve on
the citizens redistricting commission – a pool which has now been
narrowed to 120 finalists that is more reflective of California’s ethnic
diversity than the legislature is. The commission will begin its work
in January, once census data is available.

A broad coalition of civic groups including the AARP, NAACP,
MALDEF, NALEO, the League of Women Voters of California, the Los Angeles
Chamber of Commerce, and the ACLU of Southern California joined Common
Cause in opposing the abolishment of the independent citizens
redistricting commission as did every major newspaper in the state.

California also approved a second measure, Proposition 27,
which will extend the scope of the citizens redistricting commission to
draw congressional boundaries as well.  This will be a significant
change from 2001, when the Republican and Democratic parties struck a
deal to protect every incumbent member of Congress. 

“With the 2010 elections behind us, political consultants and
pundits will now turn to redistricting as the next battleground,” noted
Edgar. “In most states, we will witness a process where politicians
choose their voters for the next decade, crippling the ability of voters
to make meaningful choices in who represents them for years to come.” 

In many states, Common Cause will be forming advisory citizen
boards to demand transparency and fairness in the redistricting process,
armed with new mapping tools and legal advice needed to draw their own
districts and shame politicians out of the worst forms of
gerrymandering.

A new documentary film, Gerrymandering, opened in
theatres across the county over the past two weeks and documents some of
the past abuses of redistricting, going back to the days of the
founding fathers where Patrick Henry drew his political foe James
Madison out of a district to make it harder for him to be elected to
Congress. The United States is the sole remaining western democracy that
allows incumbent legislators to draw their own political districts.

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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

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