Redistricting (and the “Stockton finger”)

The notorious "Stockton finger," before independent redistricting undid gerrymandering a decade ago.

Redistricting, the re-drawing of political district maps after each decade’s census, is an obscure subject, but there was nothing obscure about the political corruption of old that gave Stockton the shaft.

Democratic cronies stacked the deck to keep certain seats Democratic by gerrymandering Stockton-area districts so badly that Stockton became the national poster child for gerrymandering. Literally. If you looked up gerrymandering on Wikipedia, Stockton maps came up.

More to the point, chopping Stockton up artificially into different districts castrated the city politically. No state or federal politician had to answer to all Stockton; just a few thousand or even just a few hundred Stocktonians were shunted into districts which other cites dominated. And often East Bay cities to boot, with whose residents Stocktonians have little in common.

Foremost among these artificial boundaries was the “Stockton finger,” a crazy, narrow finger of a district that ran up from Modesto, just to throw in a few more Democrat voters to safeguard the successor of ousted congressman Gary Condit.

Politicians elected mostly by voters far outside Stockton ignored Stockton.

That changed a decade ago. An initiative took redistricting out of the hands of partisans and gave it to an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Better still, a Stockton citizen sat on that commission. The district maps the drew weren’t perfect, but they were light years better. Stockton became the most populous city in its districts, meaning politicians have to make Stockton happy. That’s why you saw the likes of Congressman Jerry McNerney and State Sen. Cathleen Galgiani move here.

Redistricting is coming around again. Capitol Weekly is running a three-part series on it. If you want to feed you inner wonk, or if you believe that forewarned is forearmed, read part 2 here.

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