Last updated on September 22nd, 2021 at 11:40 pm
One of the top legislative priorities of Democrats in Washington is HR 1, the so-called “For The People Act.” As many others have noted, this sweeping legislation is essentially a federal takeover of elections. It contains many broad and far-reaching provisions, ranging from providing pubic financing of Congressional elections, requiring same-day voter registration, mandating expansive early voting, allowing teenagers to register to vote (although supposedly prohibiting them from actually voting until they turn 18), establishing automatic registration schemes whenever someone accesses state services such as DMV, expanding vote by mail procedures, and making it easier for the District of Columbia to become a state.
One of the most far-reaching provisions of the legislation is also one of the least discussed. It has to do with how Congressional districts are drawn, or “apportioned.” For the most part, across the country these districts are drawn by state Legislatures as part of the once-a-decade process to align the size of districts with a state’s population as determined by the Census. This is required to comply with the “one man one vote” principle set forth by opinions of the US Supreme Court. State legislators are quite obviously political people, and it will be no surprise that politics can often play an outsized role in how districts are designed. States controlled by Republicans will often draw districts hoping to increase Republican representation while states controlled by Democrats will often draw districts hoping to increase Democrat representation.
The political manipulation of legislative and congressional districts is called gerrymandering. Former California Congressman Phil Burton, an ardent uber-liberal from San Francisco, was an expert on reapportionment and headed up the redistricting process for Democrats in California for decades. He once drew Congressional Districts with so many twists and turns, each one designed to help Democrat candidates, that he dubbed his reapportionment plan, “my contribution to modern art.”
The “For The People Act” envisions ending the process of redistricting by state Legislatures, replacing it with so-called “independent commissions” or a panel of state judges. If both political parties have been guilty of gerrymandering, why do the Democrats want to scrap the process now? The answer is itself transparently political – because nearly two-thirds of state legislative chambers are controlled by Republicans.
The Democrats do not talk about their lack of partisan clout at the state legislative level, naturally. Instead, they talk about things such as ensuring “election independence,” ending “partisan gerrymandering,” and “empowering citizens to choose their representatives rather than the other way around.” These slogans all sound good, but they in no way represent the reality of so-called “independent” redistricting commissions.
California voters were among the first to agree to remove redistricting from elected officials and put the process in the hands of supposedly independent commissioners in the form of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. This was done through a Constitutional Amendment that barely passed with 50.8% of the vote and initially applied only to state legislators and other elected state bodies. It was later extended to apply to Congressional representation as well. Under the “Voter’s First Act,” people apply to become commissioners, then 60 people are chosen through a process controlled by the State Auditor and become “semi finalists.” This list is reduced by legislative leaders who are able to “strike” up to two proposed commissioners each for any reason. Then, the State Auditor picks (supposedly at random) eight people to become commissioners. Those eight proceed to pick six more commissioners from remaining applicants.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission handled reapportionment in California following the 2010 census. How did it work out? In 2010, before the Census was conducted, there were 19 Republican members of Congress. In 2012 after the Citizens Commission reapportioned Congressional districts, Republicans lost four seats. In 2016 they lost another one. Then in 2018, Republicans were decimated, going from 14 GOP members to just 7. They rebounded a bit in 2020, recapturing four of the seven seats they lost in the previous election. Still, throughout the most recent decade, California’s Republican representation in Congress has declined by 42%.
Now California is approaching a new redistricting by a new Citizens Commission. One thing that has occurred since the first Commission process played out is an enhanced recognition of the critical importance of having the “right” commissioners selected in the first place. As noted, the State Auditor plays a critical role in the selection of commissioners. The State Auditor is appointed by California’s governor from a list of three people recommended by the Legislature. The California Legislature is controlled by a Democrat super-majority. Democrats have held the governorship for much of the past two decades. The current State Auditor was appointed by Democrat Gray Davis.
As the next reapportionment commences in California, let’s take a look at the background and interests of the 14 new Citizen Redistricting commissioners who hold their positions in large part due to the State Auditor appointed by Democrats. You can decide if there is any sort of pattern.
There are five commissioners who are registered Democrats. One Democrat commissioner is a former official with a leftist nonprofit group that opposes “unregulated money in politics” and advises democracies about “gender sensitive indicators for early warning of violence and conflict.” A second is an assistant professor of politics “specializing in…racial and ethnic politics, and public policy.” A third Democrat is a leftist pastor who says she has “a social justice calling” and heads “a multi-cultural, multi-faith community organizing network…[that] builds power among historically excluded communities to act together for systems and policy change for racial, economic and environmental equity.” A fourth Democrat is a trained social worker who “brings to her work a tenacity for ensuring equity for historically marginalized communities, families, and children, especially as their life opportunities are impacted by their race/ethnicity, trauma and poverty.” The final Democrat commissioner is a Latina immigrant “with 30 years of community-building experience.”
There are five commissioners who are registered Republicans. One is an accomplished civil and structural engineer who “has pushed for diversity and inclusion throughout her professional and volunteer activities.” Another is a special agent with the state who is described as “a first generation Mexican-American, raised in a Delta farming community. She is bilingual and multicultural with a passion for equity in education for all children.” A third is a Chinese American pastor who is a leader of a “multicultural church community, which wrestles tangibly with matters of social justice, class & race, cultural contextualization, community redevelopment, crime & safety, recovery, re-entry, and homelessness.” The remaining two Republican commissioners are a retired researcher and manager at Sandia National Laboratories and a current investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Then there are four commissioners who are registered with neither major party. One is a senior executive with Santa Clara County’s “Division of Equity and Social Justice.” Another is an Asian Pacific Islander activist who describes herself as, “A passionate social entrepreneur for over 25 years and…a believer in the value, and urgent need, for diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership…She is the Chair of the Alliance for Board Diversity and an appointed member of the California Department of Insurance Diversity Task Force.” Then there is a top executive with Skip Row Housing Trust that “supports people, who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and/or addiction.” There is also a community health care official who once headed up a “network of community health clinics.”
Any guess as to how this redistricting process is going to play out?
Some electoral experts believe that Nancy Pelosi needs to pick up five seats from Republicans in California to offset expected losses elsewhere. Otherwise, she – and the Democrat Party – will be out of power. These seats are going to be drawn by one of the most woke group of people ever selected. I fully expect that these leftists will do everything in their power to deliver the five seats that Pelosi needs to hang onto power – all in the name of being “independent.”
This is the process that Pelosi, Schumer and Biden want the entire country to follow, and helps explain why they are pushing HR 1, the “For The People Act,” so ferociously. It’s really the “For Pelosi Act.”