Transpartisan Note #35
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
Twelve days ago Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California governor, released a video attack on gerrymandering called ‘Why Congress Is Worse Than Herpes’. Since then the video, released on ATTN: (pronounced ‘attention’), has received 22,237,520 views. The people are interested.
In the video Schwarzenegger makes three key points: 1) Congress is rigged—of 265 California congressional campaigns between 2002 and 2010, party control changed hands in only one district (voters nationally return nearly 95% of incumbents); 2) gerrymandering—partisan deals dividing voters into reliably Democratic or Republican districts—protects incumbents; 3) gerrymandering can be terminated—California’s 2008 Proposition 11, creating the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, and 2010 Proposition 20, assigning Congressional districting to the Redistricting Commission, changed the game in California.
According to the Weekly Standard, Nov 24, 2008, the 2008 initiative received support from ‘A range of good government types from across the political spectrum [that] joined the Yes on 11 campaign. These included groups as diverse as the AARP, the League of Women Voters and the Chamber of Commerce.’ It also included the support of then-Governor Schwarzenegger and former Democratic governor Gray Davis. The Democratic Party and Congressional leaders opposed the initiative and the Republican Party failed to support it. Find a list of supporters and opponents here. Find details of the current California redistricting system here. An initiative in 2010 expanded the Commission’s work to include mapping California’s United States Congressional Districts.
In 2012, 71% of California voters supported the Commission-created California Senate district maps when opponents sought to reject them by referendum. In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court upheld an Arizona initiative and ruled that independent redistricting commissions were permitted under the U.S. Constitution. Story here. In addition to California and Arizona, five other states, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and New Jersey, have forms of independent districting commissions.
The Schwarzenegger Internet campaign on behalf of ending gerrymandering seeks to spread initiatives like the independent redistricting commission in California. The former Governor, appearing with representatives of Common Cause and The League of Women Voters, laid out his analysis at a public forum at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, housed at the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, on Jan. 31, 2017, in a discussion on national political reform and redistricting.
We think working to end gerrymandering offers a meaningful task to those seeking a voice for the fifty to seventy percent of eligible American voters alienated from the current electoral system. There is transpartisan work to be done. Terminating gerrymandering is excellent transpartisan work.
(Photo of Arnold Schwarzeneggar at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference by Unclimatechange and licensed CC BY 2.0.)