Bill Mundell : A sharply split 2-1 decision by the California Court of Appeal regarding the fate of Prop. 77, the redistricting-reform ballot measure, speaks to the intense politicization of the state’s initiative process. Prop. 77’s proponents have filed an emergency application to ask the California Supreme Court to preserve the ballot measure. In 2001, state Republicans and Democrats (aided by technology which allowed a whole new level of voter profiling) struck a brazen deal to draw districts: This resulted in an election where for the first time in modern California history not one seat changed party hands. Prop. 77 calls for immediate reform by mandating an independent panel to draw districts impartially.
Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer and his confederates in the legislative leadership have attempted to characterize what were essentially clerical mistakes surrounding Prop. 77 as some kind of conspiracy between the proponents, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a million Californians. Frankly, if the legislative chairs want to investigate a conspiracy, they should start with the AG’s own bizarre legal renderings: For months, he used his authority to write title and ballot summaries in a partisan fashion to discredit Gov. Schwarzenegger’s reform package. His characterization of a general budget spending cap measure as “School Funding, School Spending” was such a blatant attempt to stir up voter concern over education that he was forced to rewrite summary and title. When questioned by the press about the redistricting proposition, the AG offered that while he’d always been a proponent of removing redistricting power from the hands of the legislature when he was a state senate leader, he thought Prop. 77 was “kooky.”
The AG’s campaign against this measure smacks of Wonderland: “First the verdict then the trial.” In the wake of the Court of Appeal decision, there is talk of copycat lawsuits challenging the plethora of initiatives which have become law. And flying through California’s buzz-circuit was a story — which may be apocryphal — that in D.C., on hearing of the ruling favorable to the AG, the most right-wing GOP member of the California delegation as well as its most liberal Democrat, both leading opponents of fair redistricting, were seen embracing.
The special election this fall is more than a clash between Gov. Schwarzenegger and his Janissaries versus the Democratic legislature. It is potentially the Second Act of the Recall — the second stage of a revolution to reclaim sovereignty.
Mr. Mundell is chairman of Californians for Fair Redistricting.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, 8/12/2005