The confusing and controversial measure asks voters whether they support the state Senate lines drawn by the equally controversial California Citizens Redistricting Committee.
A yes vote keeps the new Senate lines in effect until 2020. A no vote invalidates the boundaries and starts the redistricting process from scratch, officials said.
The measure was written in an effort to redraw the lines -- its sponsors were initially urging a no vote. But now leaders of the California Republican Party and other backers have asked their supporters to approve the measure in anticipation of having a better chance in the next election.
"The state Senate lines are bad for this year and not so bad for 2014," said Douglas Johnson, fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College. "When the even-number districts come up in 2014, the Dems are almost guaranteed to lose."
Democratic lawmakers are suspicious of the ballot initiative, with one lawmaker accusing the Republicans of "childlike behavior."
"I think it is a failed attempt by some Republicans to mislead the voters and confuse the voters into changing the rules after the courts decided that the Redistricting Commission appropriately drew the lines," said state Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park. "I think it's laziness on their part. And it's a failed attempt to mislead the voters."
After voters approved a 2010 ballot initiative to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and assign the task to citizens, the hope was that the process would be clean.
But it wasn't.
Outrage from California Republicans boiled over when the redistricting commission released its legislative lines in 2011. The lines, according to Johnson, would hand the Democrats a two-thirds majority in the state Senate.
According to a ProPublica report, state Democrats gamed the process to increase their representation. Memorandums obtained by ProPublica showed the Democrats were working "behind the scenes" to assure they would gain seats.
For example, in its report, ProPublica said that Eng's wife, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, benefitted from the lines drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Chu, an Asian-American politician, was given a congressional district where Asians are in the majority. With some hesitation, the Republicans agreed to the state Assembly lines, but not the state Senate boundaries.
"It's clear to us that the process had been corrupted," said Tom Del Beccaro, California Republican Party chairman.
"We supported the idea of a ballot initiative because we wanted fairness in the process."
The GOP spent more than $1.7 million gathering signatures, but the actual ballot language was drafted by Fairness & Accountability In Redistricting, a political action committee, Del Beccaro said.
Under normal circumstances, a qualifying ballot measure would prompt the courts to hold off on enforcing the district lines. But the courts put the new lines in play despite Prop. 40.
But the court decision isn't the end of the Prop. 40 tale. Republicans looked a little closer at those state Senate lines this spring and decided, well, they weren't that bad. They feel they can recover some of the electoral losses from 2012 in two years.
Those seats are mainly in the Central Valley in northern Orange County, according to Del Beccaro.
"The 2014 lines are certainly better than the 2012 lines and our candidates on the 2014 lines are better than their candidates," Del Beccaro said.
The confusing and controversial measure asking voters whether they support the lines drawn by the equally controversial California Citizens Redistricting Commission has gone from referendum effort widely supported by the Republican Party to one most members of the GOP are asking voters to reject.
A yes vote keeps the state Senate lines in effect until 2020. A no vote invalidates the lines and starts the redistricting process from scratch, officials said.
The California Republican Party was all in on Proposition 40 at first but is now asking members and supporters to remain patient. The measure has no official organized opposition now.
Proposition 40YES means: The state Senate district boundaries certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission would continue to be used.
NO means: The California Supreme Court would appoint special masters to determine new state Senate district boundaries.
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