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John Campbell

John Campbell (R-Irvine) is a California State Senator representing the 35th District in Orange County. He represents the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Cypress. He can be reached through his Senate website and through the website for his California Senate campaign. [go to Campbell index]

Accountable Politicians
Fair redistricting is necessary...
[John Campbell] 3/3/05

This year in Sacramento, Democratic lawmakers will continue to push two wildly unpopular pieces of legislation that would give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and create gay marriage. They will do so in defiance of the clear will of the people in both instances. And they will do this without fear of losing their seats. Why? Because the districts in which they will all run for re-election have been carefully drawn to ensure that there is a comfortable margin of registered Democrats to ensure their success in spite of unpopular positions.

This means they are not accountable to the broad electorate. Their accountability instead lies with unions and trial lawyers and other special interests that control the Democratic power structure in this state.

How did these districts get this way in the first place? According to the state constitution, every 10 years, the Legislature draws and votes on districts for itself, members of Congress and the Board of Equalization. And therein lies the problem. We legislators get to decide the very districts in which we will run. That is a classic conflict of interest. Our personal concerns about re-election or party interests can prevail over fairness and balance. It would be like allowing school kids to grade their own homework. It’s just a bad system. I actually voted for the current redistricting because the alternatives we had at the time were even more skewed than what we ended up with. It was the lesser of “evils.” But the point is that all the plans were “evil.”

In fact, the balance of power in the state Legislature has changed hands only once since the 1950s. That was four years after the districts were drawn by a court because Gov. Wilson would not agree to sign the Legislature’s gerrymander in 1990. Only then were they really fair.

As articulated by Gov. Schwarzenegger in his State of the State address, it’s time to throw this system out. It’s time to eliminate the conflicts of interest and make legislators more accountable. There are several good ideas out there for a replacement system, but most involve having a panel of retired judges draw the lines.

They could be required to keep cities and county lines intact whenever possible. They could fit two Assembly districts neatly inside each Senate district. They could consider communities of interest and respect mountain ranges, rivers and other natural boundaries. And they would absolutely not take into account voters’ party registration or the desires or locations of any legislators.

Now, I write you this as a state Senator in one of the most Republican districts in the state. In a redistricting, who knows where my district might be drawn. Who knows which votes I might need to earn and what opponent I might draw? But it is just that uncertainty that will keep me accountable to a broader population. The integrity, transparency and accountability of our system of government are way more important than the election or re-election of any one person.

Now that the governor has called for a special session to address this problem, you will begin to hear much discussion over the next year. The opposition has no real substantive reason to keep the current system except to preserve their own power base. Instead, they will try to scare you by overcomplicating the issue and casting doubt on the details of any new proposals.

It’s actually rather simple. I shouldn’t draw my own district. Someone who is impartial and unbiased should do it, with fairness in mind. That’s it. But it will require a change to the Constitution to do it. And that means the people must vote for it. So you have the power to fix it. CRO



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