California and the Right of Initiative: Bill Mundell responds to California Attorney General

July 27, 2005

Bill Lockyer: In regard to your July 18 editorial “Sacramento Strikes Back”: You seem to blindly adopt Gov. Schwarzenegger’s talking points on our state’s redistricting reform initiative. And you accuse my office of attempting to thwart redistricting reform by challenging it on a “technicality.” But I have a duty to provide the people a title and summary that reflects the initiative they see on the ballot. My office never got a chance to fulfill that duty with Prop 77. In failing to provide my office the initiative they placed before voters, the proponents violated the law and the Constitution. Public confidence in the initiative process cannot survive if we allow such violations to stand. 

You conclude that the proponents were not deceitful; however, since I filed suit, it’s been disclosed that the initiative proponents knew of their error early on and tried to cover it up. They deceived the California secretary of state by failing to disclose the error to him until after he certified the measure for the ballot. They withheld the truth from my office for weeks while duplicitously assuring me, in writing, that nothing was amiss.

As a long-time proponent of reapportionment reform, I hope the people ultimately place redistricting power in the hands of an independent body. But when we do so, we must do it legally.

Bill Lockyer
California Attorney General
Sacramento, Calif.

Thank you for your July 18 editorial exposing the deleterious use of the California attorney general’s office to thwart the will of the electorate. Almost a million California voters signed the Voter Empowerment Initiative, which turns redistricting over to an independent panel of retired judges.

While statewide polls show voters want the governor and the legislature to compromise on a host of issues, redistricting reform should not be one of them. What happened in 2001 was unjust, and must be reversed before we have another election.

Confusing voters is what this frivolous legal challenge is designed to accomplish. While the campaign against the initiative finds a theatrical setting in California court, the legislature bullies Gov. Schwarzenegger to compromise, urging a trade-off on term limits and a delay of redistricting reform until 2011. A 2005 Rose Institute poll shows a majority of bipartisan voters support immediate redistricting reform.

Because the right of initiative is one of the most precious rights in our democratic process, the California Supreme Court has previously ruled that “if doubts can reasonably be resolved in favor of the use of this reserved power, the courts will preserve it.” No initiative has ever been disqualified for the ballot based on technical differences between a version submitted for summary and a version signed by the voters.

Bill Mundell
Chairman, Californians for Fair Redistricting
Los Angeles

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, 7/27/2005

[Wall Street Journal]

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