How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission

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    Dec 27, 2011 11:33 PM GMT
    http://www.propublica.org/article/how-democrats-fooled-californias-redistricting-commission

    This spring, a group of California Democrats gathered at a modern, airy office building just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The meeting was House members only — no aides allowed — and the mission was seemingly impossible.

    In previous years, the party had used its perennial control of California’s state Legislature to draw district maps that protected Democratic incumbents. But in 2010, California voters put redistricting in the hands of a citizens’ commission where decisions would be guided by public testimony and open debate.

    The question facing House Democrats as they met to contemplate the state’s new realities was delicate: How could they influence an avowedly nonpartisan process? Alexis Marks, a House aide who invited members to the meeting, warned the representatives that secrecy was paramount. “Never say anything AT ALL about redistricting — no speculation, no predictions, NOTHING,” Marks wrote in an email. “Anything can come back to haunt you.”

    In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates — members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines," according to another email.

    The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.

    When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.

    In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map.

    California’s Democratic representatives got much of what they wanted from the 2010 redistricting cycle, especially in the northern part of the state. “Every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to DC,” said one enthusiastic memo written as the process was winding down. “This is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by advocates throughout the region.”

    Statewide, Democrats had been expected to gain at most a seat or two as a result of redistricting. But an internal party projection says that the Democrats will likely pick up six or seven seats in a state where the party’s voter registrations have grown only marginally.

    “Very little of this is due to demographic shifts,” said Professor Doug Johnson at the Rose Institute in Los Angeles. Republican areas actually had higher growth than Democratic ones. “By the numbers, Republicans should have held at least the same number of seats, but they lost.”

    As part of a national look at redistricting, ProPublica reconstructed the Democrats’ stealth success in California, drawing on internal memos, emails, interviews with participants and map analysis. What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old.

    The losers in this once-a-decade reshaping of the electoral map, experts say, were the state’s voters. The intent of the citizens’ commission was to directly link a lawmaker’s political fate to the will of his or her constituents. But as ProPublica’s review makes clear, Democratic incumbents are once again insulated from the will of the electorate.

    Democrats acknowledge that they faced a challenge in getting the districts they wanted in densely populated, ethnically diverse Southern California. The citizen commission initially proposed districts that would have endangered the political futures of several Democratic incumbents. Fighting back, some Democrats gathered in Washington and discussed alternatives. These sessions were sometimes heated.

    “There was horse-trading throughout the process,” said one senior Democratic aide.

    The revised districts were then presented to the commission by plausible-sounding witnesses who had personal ties to Democrats but did not disclose them.

    Commissioners declined to discuss the details of specific districts, citing ongoing litigation. But several said in interviews that while they were aware of some attempts to mislead them, they felt they had defused the most egregious attempts.

    “When you’ve got so many people reporting to you or making comments to you, some of them are going to be political shills,” said commissioner Stanley Forbes, a farmer and bookstore owner. “We just had to do the best we could in determining what was for real and what wasn’t.”

    Democrats acknowledge the meetings described in the emails, but said the gatherings “centered on” informing members about the process. In a statement to ProPublica, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, head of California’s delegation, said that members, “as citizens of the state of California, were well within their rights to make comments and ensure that voices from communities of interest within their neighborhoods were heard by the Commission.”

    “The final product voted on by the Commission was entirely out of the hands of the Members,” said Lofgren. “They, like any other Californian, were able to comment but had no control over the process.”

    “At no time did the Delegation draw up a statewide map,” Lofgren said. (Read Lofgren’s full statement.)
    California’s Republicans were hardly a factor. The national GOP stayed largely on the sidelines, and individual Republicans had limited success influencing the commission.

    “Republicans didn’t really do anything,” said Johnson. “They were late to the party, and essentially non-entities in the redistricting process.”
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    Dec 27, 2011 11:43 PM GMT
    Nothing angers conservatives more than when Democrats and progressives use their own tactics against them. icon_lol.gif
  • nanidesukedo

    Posts: 1036

    Dec 27, 2011 11:45 PM GMT
    Christian73 saidNothing angers conservatives more than when Democrats and progressives use their own tactics against them. icon_lol.gif


    Also, if you go onto the propublic or whatever website, you'll see that this article caused quite a firestorm of controvery, with many people claiming that it was a partisan piece. In a defensive piece that the website later wrote, they admitted that Republicans did the same thing, but they ...and I quote this "were just not as organized or nearly as effective."

    So...it looks like both sides tried...but the Democrats, being in a blue state, actually succeeded...Wonder why...
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    Dec 27, 2011 11:50 PM GMT
    nanidesukedo said
    Christian73 saidNothing angers conservatives more than when Democrats and progressives use their own tactics against them. icon_lol.gif


    Also, if you go onto the propublic or whatever website, you'll see that this article caused quite a firestorm of controvery, with many people claiming that it was a partisan piece. In a defensive piece that the website later wrote, they admitted that Republicans did the same thing, but they ...and I quote this "were just not as organized or nearly as effective."

    So...it looks like both sides tried...but the Democrats, being in a blue state, actually succeeded...Wonder why...


    That's not what they said at all.

    Here's their additional story in response and answering some of the questions -

    http://www.propublica.org/article/answering-your-questions-on-our-california-redistricting-story

    There were only a limited few who claimed the piece was partisan but given that you have icons like Robert Redford who support the site it would be a bit ridiculous to suggest that this was a hit piece.
  • nanidesukedo

    Posts: 1036

    Dec 27, 2011 11:52 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    nanidesukedo said
    Christian73 saidNothing angers conservatives more than when Democrats and progressives use their own tactics against them. icon_lol.gif


    Also, if you go onto the propublic or whatever website, you'll see that this article caused quite a firestorm of controvery, with many people claiming that it was a partisan piece. In a defensive piece that the website later wrote, they admitted that Republicans did the same thing, but they ...and I quote this "were just not as organized or nearly as effective."

    So...it looks like both sides tried...but the Democrats, being in a blue state, actually succeeded...Wonder why...


    That's not what they said at all.

    Here's their additional story in response and answering some of the questions -

    http://www.propublica.org/article/answering-your-questions-on-our-california-redistricting-story

    There were only a limited few who claimed the piece was partisan but given that you have icons like Robert Redford who support the site it would be a bit ridiculous to suggest that this was a hit piece.



    Didn't Republicans and others try to influence the commission too?

    Yes, they did. In fact, our reporting began with one such attempt. But we also found that Republicans were far less organized or effective than Democrats.


    Taken directly from the article and link you just posted...So, yes - it is exactly what they said.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Dec 27, 2011 11:55 PM GMT
    nanidesukedo said
    riddler78 said
    nanidesukedo said
    Christian73 saidNothing angers conservatives more than when Democrats and progressives use their own tactics against them. icon_lol.gif


    Also, if you go onto the propublic or whatever website, you'll see that this article caused quite a firestorm of controvery, with many people claiming that it was a partisan piece. In a defensive piece that the website later wrote, they admitted that Republicans did the same thing, but they ...and I quote this "were just not as organized or nearly as effective."

    So...it looks like both sides tried...but the Democrats, being in a blue state, actually succeeded...Wonder why...


    That's not what they said at all.

    Here's their additional story in response and answering some of the questions -

    http://www.propublica.org/article/answering-your-questions-on-our-california-redistricting-story

    There were only a limited few who claimed the piece was partisan but given that you have icons like Robert Redford who support the site it would be a bit ridiculous to suggest that this was a hit piece.



    Didn't Republicans and others try to influence the commission too?

    Yes, they did. In fact, our reporting began with one such attempt. But we also found that Republicans were far less organized or effective than Democrats.


    Taken directly from the article and link you just posted...So, yes - it is exactly what they said.


    The article didn't so much cause a firestorm of controversy as it did answer the questions asked. Look at the Republican example versus what happened with the Democrats.

    Of course I don't really quite care... in the end the Democrats seem to be getting what they deserve as does the electorate. California being the paragon of course of good governance as opposed to the opposite.

    Did the Republicans do anything that approaches what the Democrats did? "As we detailed, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and others to testify in support of district lines that coincided with the party's interests. In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for a Democratic-friendly map." The answer is no.