Yes on Proposition 20, No on Proposition 27

In 2008 Proposition 11 took redistricting powers out of the hands of politicians and created an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw legislative and Board of Equalization districts. In 2009 Proposition 20 was filed to extend the Commission’s authority to include congressional districts. The partners of Redwood Pacific Public Affairs were retained to manage the qualification and campaign to enact Prop. 20.

As Proposition 20 was being circulated and appeared likely to qualify, Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, his brother Michael and many incumbent Democratic politicians developed a strategy to try and stall the inclusion of drawing congressional districts by the commission. Specifically, they threatened to qualify a measure to eliminate the commission and thus, return all redistricting powers to the politicians and enable the legislature to again gerrymander districts like they did 10 years earlier.

Ultimately, the Bermans qualified the “kill the redistricting commission” measure, which became Proposition 27.  GC/West was also given the responsibility to defeat Prop. 27. A decision was made to conduct a single “Yes on 20/No on 27” campaign.

Ironically the strategy behind filing Prop. 27 most likely produced the opposite result from what the Berman’s hoped to achieve.  Rather than negate support for Prop. 20, it actually galvanized people to support 20 and oppose 27.   The defeat of Prop. 27 was seen by voters a way to send a message to the politicians that voters wanted an independent commission to draw districts including Congress.  Voters took one quick look at 27 and saw that it was designed to do nothing more than to gut reforms already approved by voters in 2008.

Early on research showed that voters supported preserving and extending redistricting reforms because they believed a redistricting system where state politicians drew districts for themselves and their friends in Congress was simply unfair.  They believed that fair elections through redistricting reform would help them hold politicians accountable.

The Yes on 20, No on 27 campaign was successful at building one of the most diverse statewide coalitions to ever support a campaign – including AARP, the California Chamber of Commerce, California Common Cause, the National Federation of Independent Business/CA, the Latin Business Association, the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Democratic and Republican clubs, public safety and health groups and many more.

The campaign was also able to garner more than 50 newspaper endorsements.  Editorial boards including Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, La Opinion and just about every other major paper in the state clearly agreed that voters would benefit from redistricting reforms in our state.

The Yes on Proposition 20/No on Proposition 27 campaign succeeded on November 2, 2010 with 61 percent of California voters approving Proposition 20 and 59 percent of voters opposing Proposition 27.  With this vote, Californians solidified the role of the Citizens Redistricting Commission in drawing state legislative districts and gave the commission the added responsibility of drawing California congressional districts as well.

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