Gerrymandering

California Entrepreneur Bill Mundell—founder and CEO of Vidyah, a leading private educational organization–is spearheading a citizens’ effort to attack one of the major corrupters of American politics today: gerrymandering. Thanks to high tech, politicians can now establish district lines that effectively make elections for state legislatures and for the House of Representatives uncompetitive.

In California last November not one incumbent was defeated in elections for the state legislature or Congress. Not one of the 153 seats up for grabs–53 congressional seats and 100 in the state legislature–changed party hands. As has often been observed, the U.S. is becoming a democracy in which the politicians choose the voters rather than the other way around. Aside from a handful of notable exceptions such as Iowa, states more or less follow California’s Soviet-style approach to drawing voting district lines.

Mundell chairs Californians for Fair Redistricting, which is pushing for passage this November of Proposition 77, the Voter Empowerment Act. The initiative would establish a nonpartisan panel of judges to draw competitive and compact district lines. No longer would boundaries resemble a Jackson Pollock painting. Competition would be restored–and with it infinitely greater accountability.

You’d think that with more and more pols ensconced in safe districts, they’d act more responsibly. Quite the opposite–special interests have gained more influence, and spending has reached irresponsible proportions. Gerrymandering is one reason California politics has become so dysfunctional. Needed reforms are dead-on-arrival in the state legislature.

It’s no wonder that Proposition 77 is despised by most Golden State politicos. California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer tried throwing Proposition 77 off the ballot on minor technicalities. Fortunately the state Supreme Court blocked Lockyer’s insidiously cynical maneuver, and Proposition 77 is back on the ballot.

If successful, this initiative will set an inspiring precedent for similar redistricting reform efforts in the rest of the country. And Mundell will rightly become a political force to be reckoned with. Steve Forbes

Gerrymandering is America’s best kept secret. It has effectively disenfranchised the majority of voters – and they don’t even know it. But they do know our country’s infrastructure is crumbling, our economy has cratered, and our government is broken. It turns out our ability to address those problems is directly affected by the arcane rules of redistricting which determine who gets elected and who gets represented. Gerrymandering provides our politicians a perfectly legal way to control the outcome of elections for decades at a time. It is more menacing than voter suppression or tampering and more systemic than touch screens versus punch cards or optical scan ballots. [Freedom Politics]

During the next several weeks, hundreds of thousands of California voters will receive a free copy of my critically acclaimed documentary, “Gerrymandering.” I made this film because I am frustrated with the political environment we see not only in California but in Washington, D.C. Looking at the entrenched partisanship and gridlock in our political system, it’s easy to become cynical. Year after year, it seems nothing changes. That’s because your votes don’t really count. The reason is simple: gerrymandering. Thanks to a bipartisan deal made in 2001 in Sacramento, in the last decade only one California congressional seat changed parties. In four statewide elections, only one changed.  More…

Bill Mundell talked about gerrymandering at the 2009 International Electoral Commissions Conference, organized by the ICPS (International Centre for Parliamentary Studies). The ICPS exists to promote effective policy making and good governance through better interaction between Parliaments, Governments and other stakeholders in society. The Centre’s primary focus is the empowerment of Human Capital through Capacity Building. To this effect, the Centre organises a range of Training Programmes, Conferences and Policy Discussions to address current public policy issues on the International Stage, in the European Union and the UK. These provide a forum for policy discussion, debate, networking and sharing of best practices. More…

What role does gerrymander and redistricting play in National and State Politics?

Well, at the state level, it has enormous influence on who controls the state house and the state senate. On the national level, it really has strong influence on who controls the House of Representatives. The classic example is the 1994 takeover by the republicans of the house, which was influenced by the 1990 census and the 1991 redistricting. Other than determining the composition of Democrats and Republicans, gerrymandering also determines the ethnic make-up. At the state level, you really don’t have any kind of buffer, and it’s only at the national level that you do have buffers. The US Senate acts as a buffer to what the US house does. But at the state level, you don’t have that buffer. More…

In “Israel’s Election System Is No Good” (op-ed, April 1), Prof. Bernard Lewis argues that the February Israeli election again demonstrated the failures of Israel’s electoral system. He urges that the Knesset no longer be elected nationwide but instead be composed of members representing individual districts, as are the legislatures of the U.S. and U.K. But the adoption of the “constituencies” model used in Anglo-American countries brings its own set of problems. The effectiveness of a district-based system depends on how those district lines are drawn. More…

Gregg Kilday – The Hollywood Reporter – Jeff Reichert, who left his post as senior vp at Magnolia Pictures in October, is directing the documentary “Gerrymandering,” an examination of political redistricting that is being executive produced by Bill Mundell, a leader in the redistricting reform movement. The film is one of three docs being backed by New York-based Green Film Co., founded last year by indie producers Dan O’Meara and Chris Romano to make films covering a range of social issues. In addition to “Gerrymandering,” Green is financing the untitled documentary about Barack Obama, directed by Amy Rice and Alicia Sams, that will air on HBO. It also has partnered with Chad Troutwine to produce “Freakonomics,” a doc based on the Steven Levitt/Stephen Dubner best-seller that is being directed by several different filmmakers, including Morgan Spurlock and Alex Gibney.  More…

California Entrepreneur Bill Mundell—founder and CEO of Vidyah, a leading private educational organization–is spearheading a citizens’ effort to attack one of the major corrupters of American politics today: gerrymandering. Thanks to high tech, politicians can now establish district lines that effectively make elections for state legislatures and for the House of Representatives uncompetitive. More…

‘Kooky’ Monster

August 12, 2005

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. More…

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.  More…

Michael Finnegan – Times Staff Writer: Bill Mundell has carved a lonely spot for himself in California politics: The wealthy technology executive is the sole Republican openly weighing a serious run to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “If I make a decision to go forward with this, I will give Dianne Feinstein a run for her money,” said Mundell, whose last campaign, a state Assembly race, ended in defeat 19 years ago. More…

Californians for Fair Redistricting Chairman Bill Mundell rolled up his sleeves and pulled dozens of boxes with the signatures of LA county voters out of the back of a U-haul truck at the LA County Recorder’s office this morning. “The people have spoken,” Mundell announced as he urged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to call a special election to let the people vote on redistricting this November. Mundell and clerks from the County Registrar’s office loaded 212,000 signatures onto a push cart and took them up the ramp and to the third floor of the office building where they will be verified and counted. More…