Judging the Three-Judge Panel: An Evaluation of California’s Proposed Redistricting Commission – Note by Nicholas D. Mosich

From Volume 79, Number 1 (November 2005)

A movement to reform the method of drawing state legislative and U.S. congressional districts has been slowly spreading across the country for decades. The movement’s goal: to revoke state legislatures’ control over redistricting and cede it to independent redistricting commissions. Spurred by progressively less competitive elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures, and by the increasing success of partisan and bipartisan gerrymanders in manipulating the outcomes of those elections, calls for change have recently attracted national attention. Following the 2004 elections – the results of which revealed some of the least competitive races for state legislative and congressional seats in American history and exposed two of the most effective and egregious political gerrymanders ever accomplished – these calls rose to a fever pitch.

In February 2005, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger responded to this outcry. He backed an initiative that, if passed, would have created an independent redistricting commission in California and he joined forces with nonpartisan organization Common Cause to advocate for the establishment of such commissions across the country. Commentators foresaw a “Redistricting Revolution.” The efforts of Governor Schwarzenegger and Common Cause met early success as campaigns to reform redistricting were launched in twelve states. Additionally, initiatives to establish redistricting commissions in California and Ohio qualified for the ballots during those states’ next elections. The calls for reform were echoed in Washington, D.C., as two bills were introduced in the House of Representatives that would require every state to use an independent redistricting commission for redrawing congressional districts.