Propositions on California ballots are often confusing. With misleading titles and convoluted wording, Proposition 40 does nothing to alleviate that confusion.
Proposition 40 is an attempt to use California’s referendum process to redraw the new state Senate boundaries. The Citizens Redistricting Commission is the body now responsible for drawing those boundaries.
California Senate and Assembly districts were redrawn in 2011. The comission set new boundaries and balanced districts based on the 2010 census data.
Voting “Yes” is a vote to maintain the Commission’s state Senate lines. Voting “No” on Proposition 40 would reject the new Senate districts and require a new effort to draw them. This is the result that sponsors and proponents of the referendum want.
In August 2011, the Citizens Redistricting Commission certified maps establishing new boundaries for the state Senate, Assembly, Board of Equalization and California Congressional districts. Proposition 40 proponents are now challenging the new state Senate district boundaries.
Prior to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, which was established in 2008 when Proposition 11 was passed, the legislature drew district boundaries. This process was criticized and successfully challenged at the polls for being too incumbent-friendly and influenced by partisan political interests.
Proposition 40 proponents petitioned the California Supreme Court to determine which maps would be used in the June 2012 primary and November general election should the referendum qualify for the ballot. In response the court found that the Senate maps were drawn according to constitutionally mandated criteria and were valid.
The referendum gives voters the chance to approve or reject those boundaries. If a majority of voters vote “No,” the Supreme Court would appoint “special masters,” often retired judges, to draw interim boundaries in accordance with redistricting criteria mandated by the California constitution. These district boundaries would be used in future elections until the commission drew new boundaries after the 2020 census.
Because of the Supreme Court ruling on the validity of the commission-drawn boundaries, original sponsor Julie Vandermost and her associates, including the California Republican Party, suspended their campaign and no longer support a “No” vote.
A previous attempt (Proposition 27 in 2010) to eliminate the commission and give redistricting back to the Legislature failed at the ballot box.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office found that a “Yes” vote would have no fiscal effect. A “No” vote would cost the state $500,000 and counties would incur one time costs of about $500,000 statewide to develop new precinct maps and related election materials for the districts.
Heads of the California Common Cause, the National Federation of Independent Businesses in California, California AARP and the California and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce urge a “Yes” vote as does the state Democratic Party and the League of Women voters.
The oddity here is that frustrated voters who might vote “No” on every ballot measure could end up achieving the result sought by the original proponents who no longer support the measure.