Proposition G - Redistricting

Voter Guide
November 1, 2001
This measure appeared on the November 2001 San Francisco ballot.

 

What it does

This Charter amendment would change the procedures for redrawing district lines for the Board of Supervisors, create a timeline for the process, and require use of adjusted census data.

Why it is on the ballot

This Charter change, proposed by Supervisor Chris Daly, replaces the current procedures for the decennial reapportionment. In some ways, this proposal serves as a companion measure to Prop. E affecting the Department of Elections in that it will change the redistricting body.

Pros

Those who support this measure state:

  • The current Director of Elections is appointed by the City Administrator, who is appointed by the Mayor. Thus the Mayor, indirectly, is responsible for six of the nine Elections Task Force members. A new Elections Commission could be more neutral in appointing its three members, as the Elections Commission itself would be made up of appointees from many different elected officials.
  • The current redistricting procedures include no timelines for completing the work. This leaves a great deal of room for uncertainty and manipulation, which this proposal would fix.

Cons

Those who oppose this measure state:

  • The current redistricting procedures have never been tried. This proposal asks us to "reform" a process that has not been shown to be flawed.
  • The timeline between finalizing new districts (April 15) and the filing deadline for candidates (August) is too short. Individuals thinking about running will not have the necessary time to see which district they live in and ascertain support in that district. This creates an unfair advantage for incumbents.
  • Within the current context of acrimony in San Francisco politics, many are skeptical about the motivations behind this proposal. Other local governments have already completed their redistricting process, and San Francisco has not even begun. This measure is seen as a delaying measure in order to put off redistricting to a time when, ostensibly, a new Elections Commission will be in place and the appointees of the Director of Elections, seen as beholden to the Mayor, can be taken out of the process. In other words, this is a power grab.
  • The good ideas within this measure can be enacted in other ways, without going to the Charter and without delaying the current redistricting procedure.

SPUR's analysis

Elections Task Force

The Elections Task Force, charged with creating new district boundaries following each census, is made up of nine members. Three members each are appointed by the Mayor, the Board, and the Director of Elections. Under this proposal, the new Elections Commission will make three appointments instead of the Director of Elections (assuming Prop. E passes).

Timeline

The current redistricting procedures do not include a timeline for the process to be completed. The proposal requires that, in the current redistricting, the Elections Task Force be appointed by January 8, 2002 and the process completed before April 15th. In future years, the Task Force would have to be appointed within 60 days after the Director of Elections issues a report that the districts do not comply with legal requirements, and again the redistricting process would have to be completed by April 15th.

Adjusted Data

This proposal would require San Francisco's use of census data adjusted to correct for any under- or over-count. Current census data are widely believed to undercount significant numbers of immigrants, people of color, homeless, and other groups, and statistically adjusted census data are generally believed to be more accurate. However, it is not clear that the US Census will even release adjusted estimates. Adjusted figures have been explicitly prohibited from use in federal redistricting. A decision will be made on October 15, 2002 on whether or not to release the adjusted data. Even if they are released, however, the data will be released only down to the "block-group" level of geography (about 600 to 800 people), a level considered too large to be useful in redistricting. The legislation states that if the US Census does not release the adjusted data, the California Department of Finance (DOF) adjusted data should be used. The DOF has adjusted for the presumed undercount, but only down to the city level; it has no plans to adjust the data for smaller geographies.

The positive portions of this legislation could be enacted in other ways-e.g., creating a timeline for the process-through simple ordinances that can be passed by the Board of Supervisors. This measure is motivated by a desire to attack the current Mayor; such shortsighted considerations do not belong in the Charter.

SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Proposition G.