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Election 2012: State Proposition Guide

Produced by KQED News and The California Report

Proposition 40

Referendum: Approves Current State Senate District Boundaries

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At a Glance

  • Proposition 40 is one of those backwards measures, where a "yes" vote doesn't change anything, and a "no" vote changes a lot.
  • A yes vote on Prop. 40 keeps in place the new state Senate district boundaries created by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
  • A no vote throws out the state Senate districts created by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The California Supreme Court would then appoint officials to redraw state Senate district boundaries.
  • The original backers of this measure no longer support it.
  • Budget Impact: The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that if Californians vote no, the state would spend about $500,000 and counties statewide would spend another $500,000 to develop materials, such as new precinct maps.

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Political district boundaries get re-drawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census has determined how many people are living where. In 2008 and 2010, voters passed measures creating a Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw the boundaries of Congressional, California Senate and Assembly and Board of Equalization districts. Those are now California's current district boundaries.

What Proposition 40 Changes

Nothing. But it still takes a "yes" vote to keep in place the state Senate districts created by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. If Prop. 40 fails, those districts get thrown out, and the new districts would be drawn by a panel of officials appointed by the California Supreme Court.

Why is Prop. 40 on the Ballot?

The California Republican Party sponsored this referendum to overturn the new state Senate districts. The GOP then asked the state Supreme Court to rule on whether the new maps or the old maps would be used for the November 2012 election. In January, the state's high court ruled that the district maps drawn by the Citizens Commission must be used in 2012.

So on July 12, the supporters of Prop. 40 announced they're no longer campaigning for people to vote "no." However, the measure remains on the ballot because there's no way to remove measures that have qualified via a signature campaign.

A Little Context

Before 2010, the state legislature decided California's political boundaries. The Citizens Redistricting Commission was an effort spearheaded by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to make the process more transparent and less political.

Arguments For and Against:

Supporters say...

voting "yes" protects the work of an independent commission created by voters.

The League of Women Voters of California, AARP California, California Chamber of Commerce, the California Democratic Party and now the California Republican Party all support a yes vote.

Opponents say...

The California Republican Party has withdrawn its support for a "no" vote.