Doom of both could be goal of one of them
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/17/2010 09:30:25 PM PDT

If you can’t beat ’em, confuse ’em.

That’s the thinking, some political observers say, behind Proposition 27, one of the measures that will appear on November’s ballot. Proposition 27 and another measure on the ballot have near-opposite effects, which could doom both measures.

“The voters are busy people,” said Douglas Johnson, a researcher at Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government. “They don’t have much time to read every word of the ballot pamphlet. When in doubt, they vote no.”

And that, Johnson said, could be the point.

Proposition 27 would reverse a 2008 ballot measure, Proposition 11, that created a bipartisan citizens commission to redraw the boundaries of California’s state Assembly and Senate districts. Also on November’s ballot is Proposition 20, which would give the same commission power to redraw congressional districts as well.

In other words, Proposition 20 gives the commission more power, while Proposition 27 eliminates the commission.

But the financial backers of Proposition 27 – many of California’s congressional Democrats gave money to the group promoting the measure – would seem to benefit more from Proposition 20 failing than from Proposition 27 winning.

If Proposition 20 passes, congressional districts would be drawn by the commission rather than by state legislators. That could mean districts that are more competitive – something Johnson and other experts say members of Congress don’t want.

Those same members, Johnson said, likely care much less about whether the commission draws boundaries for Assembly and Senate districts.

“They have no personal interest in the legislative redistricting process,” he said. “The goal here is just to increase the doubt level for voters.”

By putting a second redistricting-related measure on the ballot, Johnson said Proposition 27’s backers might think they can frustrate or confuse voters enough to vote against Proposition 20.

“A win consists of defeating the other initiative,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. “If voters are confused enough to skip the measures altogether, then that’s a victory of sorts.”

Johnson said it’s a common tactic in California and other states. When several opposing measures are on the same ballot, he said it’s difficult for proponents to campaign, because they have to campaign for one measure and against another.

He said that’s why some relatively noncontroversial budget-balancing measures failed to pass in the May 2009 special election.

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