Op-Ed: Fair and independent redistricting? Los Angeles County does it already and did it right
California’s new electoral map, adopted by the Legislature in 2014 and made final in 2015, is, if you weren’t paying close enough attention, something of a disaster. The two statewide parties received roughly the same number of votes statewide, but their share of seats in the Assembly and Assembly seats in each of the 58 Los Angeles County districts is vastly different — a net of 678, or roughly a 7.5-1 split: The Republicans have more seats to give them one for every single liberal Democrat in the county. The Democrats have more seats to give them one for every conservative Republican, and a few small independents. But the districts themselves are different: While the Democrats have many districts where their vote share is only one percent, the Republicans have only a handful that are more in the single digits. As for the other districts, while the Democrats have four districts where more than a share of the vote comes from voters who don’t have party identification, the Republicans have only one district (in San Diego) where more than half of the vote comes from people who are not affiliated with the major parties.
And it’s not just that the outcome in the redistricting isn’t any different, but that the process itself is flawed and unfair. In the first place, Los Angeles County is already redistricting itself — which is what Los Angeles County’s charter called for when approved by voters in 2001. But a new charter, adopted in 2005 by voters at the same time, gives them more powers than they were given by the existing law. They can redistrict the county by adding new seats or reducing the number of existing seats. They can also decide to use a single-member district for every single seat, or split up the seats among districts as they see fit.
The existing law gives the county voters only three options for getting involved in redistricting: If they want their district split up, they can call their vote — or get it changed by the Board of Supervisors — at a special election. But the new charter gives them a fourth option: They can create a charter district within their district — essentially a district with a representative. The charter then allocates seats to the charter district, and calls these new seats “ch