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California: Rose Institute study claims Prop. 77 would make more competitive districts

The Los Angeles Times reports: The number of true tossup races for the Legislature and Congress would increase sixfold in California if voters passed Proposition 77, according to a new academic study of the initiative. But redistricting experts caution against expecting a dramatic shake-up of political power.

Retired judges rather than lawmakers would draw political boundaries under Proposition 77. The new districts probably would create competition in 10 congressional districts, seven Assembly districts and eight state Senate districts, according to research released Monday by Claremont McKenna College's Rose Institute of State and Local Government. ...

That would be a major increase in competitiveness, the researchers said. At present, there are no competitive congressional districts in California, three in the Assembly and one in the state Senate. ...

By ignoring the advantages of incumbent politicians such as name recognition among voters the Rose Institute report probably exaggerates the number of competitive districts the judges could draw, said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote the Center for Voting and Democracy in Maryland.

Politicians seeking reelection can count on a roughly 7% advantage over candidates trying to break into office, he said.

"That can move a district that looks competitive on paper to being uncompetitive," said Richie.

And in at least two states that use independent commissions to draw political boundaries Arizona and Iowa incumbents have still been reelected easily, Richie said. In Arizona, 15 of 16 congressional races have been won by margins of 20% or more since the independent redistricting commission plan went into effect.

Changing redistricting, Richie said, "still hasn't created any nirvana of competition." -- Modest Change Seen Under Prop. 77 - Los Angeles Times