Washington doesn't work - at least not for us.
Congress spends year after year failing to pass immigration reform, infrastructure investment, an actual energy policy, any measures to reduce our debt, or really anything at all. The people complain, and give them an approval rating worse than Herpes, colonoscopies, and cockroaches. But every two years, we re-elect 98% of them.
At the same time, it seems like the American people are more divided than at any time in recent memory. That’s no accident - our politicians have literally divided us, drawing map lines so that they can pick the voters they want to represent, instead of letting the voters pick them. It’s called gerrymandering, and it has broken our political system.
When I was elected Governor of California in 2003 a lot of voters imagined I would be the Kindergarten Cop and break the gridlock in the legislature singlehandedly, but I realized very quickly that the problem ran much deeper. Because legislators were drawing their own districts, they were picking their voters and virtually assuring their own re-election. Most politicians came from hardcore Democratic districts or hardcore Republican districts and had no incentive to leave their partisan corners to come together for the people of California. In 265 congressional elections over the past decade, only ONE seat changed party hands. We had no turnover. Politicians were so safe in their jobs, they had no reason to fear a voter backlash or to even feel accountable to us.
I'll be honest – nationwide redistricting reform isn’t going to be easy. My fight for independent redistricting in California began with a few losses. Republican and Democratic party bosses do not want independent citizens’ commissions to draw district lines. Instead they want to protect the rigged status quo. It's one of the few things Democrats and Republicans can agree on, and they will spend millions of dollars to protect that rigged system. They did it in California, and they won for years.
But in 2008 we teamed up with a broad coalition of good government groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and AARP and finally succeeded. That year California voters chose to take the power of drawing district lines away from the politicians and gave it to an independent commission. In the first Congressional election using non-partisan district lines, 24% of California’s 53 member delegation either retired because they didn't want to fight for their seat, or they lost re-election. And four seats changed party hands - a 400% increase from the previous 10 years of elections - in one election. Suddenly, our members of Congress had to fight for their jobs and started to perform better. Research shows that representatives became more responsive to voters of all parties and they moved away from the extremes and toward the center, where the majority of the voters are.
It is now time to take independent redistricting reform nationwide. It's complicated, but we are here to show you that it is not impossible. Some states have the initiative process where we can go directly to the voters for reform exactly like we did in California. Some states require pressure on governors and legislative representatives. And finally we can fight this battle in the courts. The Supreme Court already ruled that independent commissions like ours in California are constitutional and will likely hear two more cases in the coming year - Whitford v. Gill from Wisconsin and McCroy v. Harris from North Carolina. We'll be supporting all of these efforts but need your support and your money to help gather signatures, air campaign ads, educate legislators and hire the best-of-the-best lawyers.
It's a three-pronged attack - we will fight gerrymandering with grassroots initiatives, we will fight it by lobbying in state capitols, and we will fight it in the courts. Together, we will win.
Let’s not forget: people hold the ultimate power. The Women’s Suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, the Indian Independence movement - these did not start in the halls of power. They started with the people and they swelled to powerful movements that the capitols could no longer ignore. Our campaign will be no different.
You can take the first step, by joining this campaign today. In time we'll have other steps for you to help - nationally and state-by-state.
By the way - I'm not just asking you to join me and send money. This is so important to me, I will be matching your donations.
Let’s make Washington work for us again.
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