Proposition 40 on the November ballot is the result of Republicans' hissy fit over newly drawn Senate districts that they say are unfair. They've decided not to run a campaign, but the measure is still there, and it's a mess for voters to sort out.
All you really need to know about Proposition 40 is: Vote yes. If you supported citizens' redistricting, "yes" keeps it in place.
The measure is what's known as a veto referendum, which allows voters to reject a law. But the wording is confusing. A no vote overturns the citizen-drawn districts, and a yes vote maintains them.
It's essential to uphold the districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission that voters authorized four years ago.
For decades, state lawmakers set legislative and congressional district boundaries, using that power to protect their own seats and parties.
Now, a carefully chosen group of citizens whose livelihoods don't depend on district lines is responsible for drawing them, not in backrooms but in public meetings. It should help move lawmakers back toward the center, encourage compromise and help to build trust in government.
The commission includes five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents. They were nearly unanimous in approving new lines for legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization seats last year. But Republican leaders complained about the Senate districts, saying they favored Democrats.
They probably will result in a few more Democrats being elected. But that's mostly because the old lines were gerrymandered to protect incumbents regardless of party. So even when a Legislature controlled by Democrats was drawing the lines, some GOP lawmakers had districts stretched to include enough Republican voters to keep them in office. The new districts take into account communities of interest, geography and other factors.
Some new districts should be more competitive than they have been -- no longer safe seats for either party. That's likely to push candidates toward compromise to appeal to moderates and independents. According to an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California, there are more open seats and more challenges to incumbents this year thanks to the redistricting commission's work and the new top-two primary system, which places the two highest vote-getters in the runoff regardless of party. Those are good things.
But Republicans gathered enough signatures to get the veto referendum on the ballot, hoping the courts would keep the old districts in place for this election. The state Supreme Court refused, so the GOP gave up and, to its credit, decided not to campaign for -- or rather against, given the wording -- its own proposition.
Californians have voted twice in favor of the redistricting commission, first when they created it in 2008, and again in 2010 when they expanded its scope to include congressional districts.
But to keep redistricting out in public rather than in backrooms, Californians need to vote for the citizens commission once again. This time, it requires a yes on Proposition 40.