Never, ever fall for an “independent” redistricting plan

| February 15 2013
Christopher Cook

We have written about it numerous times here at Western Free Press. Arizona’s now-infamous Prop 106 did not create an independent redistricting scheme for the state. Rather, it created a scenario that allowed unscrupulous forces to game the system and garner advantages that

A) they had not earned at the ballot box, and that

B) were not in keeping with the spirit of creating an independent process.

By “unscrupulous forces,” of course, I mean Democrats. From Tammany Hall to the Solid South to modern electoral shenanigans, gaming the system is simply what they do.

If you didn’t like the scam Colleen Mathis, Strategic Telemetry, and their cohorts pulled in Arizona, at least you can take comfort from the fact that Arizona is not alone in having been victimized in this way:

This spring, a group of California Democrats gathered at a modern, airy office building just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The meeting was House members only — no aides allowed — and the mission was seemingly impossible.

In previous years, the party had used its perennial control of California’s state Legislature to draw district maps that protected Democratic incumbents. But in 2010, California voters put redistricting in the hands of a citizens’ commission where decisions would be guided by public testimony and open debate.

The question facing House Democrats as they met to contemplate the state’s new realities was delicate: How could they influence an avowedly nonpartisan process? Alexis Marks, a House aide who invited members to the meeting, warned the representatives that secrecy was paramount. “Never say anything AT ALL about redistricting — no speculation, no predictions, NOTHING,” Marks wrote in an email. “Anything can come back to haunt you.”

In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates — members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines,” according to another email.

The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.

When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.

In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map . . .

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