CA GOP Waives the White Flag (On Senate Districting, Anyway)

Prop 40 proponents acknowledge failure, orphan measure

by Brian Leubitz

Earlier in the cycle, Senate Republicans, and the state GOP (along with a few wealthy donors) decided that putting a referendum on the ballot to reject the senate district lines would be a good use of money. Of course, Republicans (in particular Schwarzeneger)were the main supporters of the original initiative to change the redistricting process, but never mind that.

They had intended to get the courts to toss out the old maps for the 2012 election, but during the court case didn't actually provide a reason to do so. You can read more about the CASupCt's decision in my summary of the opinion, but long story short the Commission map was just the easiest and most representative map to use. It complied with the equal representation requirement, took a lot of comment about the lines from the public and generally tried to meet the goals of the initiative.

That left the GOP with a very visible problem: what to do about Prop 40? If they actively tried to win on the referendum, we would have another set of maps for 2014. With voters already confused from the once-a-decade redistricting, that hardly seemed wise politically.  Instead we got a ballot statement from the proponents of the referendum that basically said, we're sorry, this is a waste of time, nothing to see here. In short, they left Prop 40 for dead, orphaning it on the ballot.

Joe Matthews looks at the eternal question of why orphaned/zombie initiatives stay on the ballot, but I'll put in a point for keeping these measures on the ballot. Let's say some other group thought that the senate referendum was a good idea, but they saw that the CAGOP was putting it on the ballot. They would have likely abandoned their own efforts. If we allowed the proponents to take measures off the ballot, we would just allow proponents to abandon other potential supporters. There is no hard and fast reason why some other group of supporters couldn't come in and spend millions of dollars to help get the initiative passed.

IMHO, once the initiative is on the ballot, it belongs to the people. Colorado's system of requiring both the Legislature and the proponents to agree makes a bit more sense, risks remain.

So, when you get to Prop 40, remember that pretty much nobody wants to see the referendum overturn the maps. But perhaps we get some interesting information on baseline yes/no percentages for referendums?

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