Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Federal Lawsuit Argues CA’s Ratio of Voters to Legislators Violates U.S. Constitution

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.

On May 8th, a Federal Lawsuit was filed charging that the ratio between California Voters and the number of Legislators is so extreme, that Californians effectively do not have a Voice in their State Legislature. With only 40 State Senators and only 80 Assembly Members, the typical State Senate District has a population of almost 1,000,000, and the typical Assembly District has a population of almost 500,000.

Plaintiffs include some County Supervisors and Sheriffs, the California Libertarian Party, the American Independent Party, the Marin County Green Party, Baird’s Secessionist State of Jefferson group, Native Americans, and The City of Fort Jones in Siskiyou County. The case is Citizens for Fair Representation v Padilla, The case is assigned to Judge Kimberly Mueller.

The Plaintiffs want a Three-Judge Panel to order California to create new Legislative Districts. They also want to include the creation of at least one Native American-Majority District.

The basis for the Lawsuit comes from California’s decision in 1862 to cap the number of Assembly Members at 80 and State Senators at 40. The Plaintiffs, who mostly hail from rural Northern California Counties, say the arbitrary cap has made it impossible for the current Legislature to Represent the interests of the Nation’s most populous State as it’s grown over the decades.

While the Filing doesn’t explicitly lay out a Plan for adding new Districts or give a desired Total, the plaintiffs hope to achieve a ratio of approximately 30,000 Residents per Assembly Member. The figure would drop California well below the National Average of 59,000 Residents per Representative, according to 2010 Census Data.

If successful, the change would add more than 1,200 Members to California’s Lower Statehouse. In comparison, New Hampshire has the most State Representatives with 400 and Pennsylvania is second with 203.

The Plaintiffs claim that Campaigning in State Elections has become impossible without a deep war chest because Voting Districts have become so spread out. The State’s First Senate District encompasses more than 27,000 square miles, larger than West Virginia, and parts of 11 Northern California Counties.

According to the Federal Lawsuit filed Monday, smaller Districts would prevent Incumbents from dominating State Elections and permit more Women, Minorities, and Third Parties to compete. Smaller Districts would also hold Elected Officials more Accountable to their Constituents.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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