Editorial: Why L.A. needs independent redistricting
The debate about redistricting in Los Angeles County is in many respects a debate about whether the election system could be fixed. This year will be a test case in that contest.
The current system is flawed, but the reforms proposed by the candidates seeking to replace it are wrong and potentially do even more harm than the current system.
The current system was devised by a commission in response to the 1978 law that established the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The board established a board of two supervisors for each district. The board then divided the state legislative districts into two-member districts and elected those supervisors in a manner that was designed by the Legislature.
While the current system was, at least, somewhat successful, its design was flawed.
The first flaw was that it was originally based on the assumption that the two-member, districting plan was best for state legislators, which it was. That assumption was flawed because the county had a population of 1.1 million and the state had 2.2 million.
Further, the county itself had four legislative seats, and those legislators had to be elected by only about 300,000 voters each. That was a lot more than the state legislators in fact had.
In addition, the voters of that small county were not as concerned with districting as the voters in larger cities such as Los Angeles. Those voters did not want to send them members of a legislative body that had so few votes to count on that they were more likely to be elected from a district where voters thought they had no say in how their representative was elected.
The other factor was political gerrymandering, which is an effort to give a local government one or a few districts in which to place only one or a few members of a legislative body.
The gerrymandering effort was not the fault of the law that created the board of supervisors, but was the result of a law on the books that limited congressional reapportionment power. That law was designed to have the same effect on reapportionment as it did on legislating: make the national gerrymandering law applicable to congressional districts, thereby making a national solution to the problem of having too many district representatives even