Initiative Constitutional Amendment

"Communities of Interest"
Fair Vote Factor?
By Bill Westmiller

One factor that has commonly been considered an essential element of fair districting is missing from the Fair Vote 2K proposal. The methodology that intends to protect socalled "Communities of Interest" are ignored in the compact and equal formula specified in the initiative. Ordinarily expressed as a vague preference for having electoral districts conform to city and county boundaries, the term has been used to advocate, justify and perpetuate a wide range of political, geographic, and political interests.
When the Fair Vote 2K initiative was originally drafted, it included the standard dictum that county and city boundaries be respected. However, the fact is that no previous apportionment had ever accomplished that goal, except at the inconsequential margins. Most California counties are at the extremes. Their populations are either to small to make a district or they are large enough to require multiple districts, usually crossing boundaries. City boundaries are not just irregular, but vary from yeartoyear. Nor do the census tract boundaries conform with city boundaries, except incidentally.
Introducing a "fudge factor" into the clean and simple methodology of Fair Vote 2K would have opened a can of worms. How much should compactness be compromised to conform with other jurisdictional boundaries? Should equality be sacrificed to push one neighborhood into this district or that? Will a 1% latitude be sufficient, or would it require 10% or even 20% to allow conformance with city and county lines? There was no answer that could accommodate every variation.
However, the decision to discard "Communities of Interest" was not solely a means of overcoming a mathematic problem. After reviewing a wide range of court opinions and academic discussions of districting, it became evident that there was no objective definition of the term. It was considered an "artistic factor" that fluctuated in a different direction for nearly every person. What seems fair to one is a perversion to another.
Before modern transportation and communications, the concept of community was defined by geographic barriers. The folks over the hill were not "us". You were either on the right bank of the river or one of "them". "We" were here, "they" were there. In fact, many of the census boundaries, drawn a century or more ago, reflect geographic features. Most county boundaries also coincide with geography. In the modern world, we rarely take notice of geography, finding commonality of interests in spite of the mountains, rivers and plains that physically divide us.
However, those "interests" cut a wide swath in every direction. For most of us, geography is irrelevant but political divisions are critical. Whether our interests lean toward racial equality, environmental protection, agricultural resources, corporate honesty or better local roads, we can find champions beyond our geographic confines. Rarely do our neighbors share all our political inclinations. Trying to accommodate electoral district boundaries to these type of "interests" is foolish. No one of them can be assigned a political priority that overrides all others. Attempting to quantify those interests in drawing electoral lines is an invitation to the type of political gerrymandering that has plagued fair representation for decades. In the name of your favorite "interest", politicians will pick the electors that will perpetuate their individual status in the decision making, rather than foster the general interest in good government.
If politics is war, then districting is the nuclear bomb of political power. It destroys any semblance of equality or fairness by obliterating the political power of opponents and frustrating the will of the people. Banishing this terror from our political system requires an objective, neutral method of drawing district lines. Equality of representation and proximity are the only scientific, neutral criteria that will banish the districting weapon from all political contests. Fair Vote 2K is the only vehicle for granting every citizen an equal opportunity to bring their interests to bear on the most important issues of the day.

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