Californiaís governor has this curious idea that when he canít force the stateís legislators to commit political suicide, the b

Californiaís governor has this curious idea that when he canít force the stateís legislators to commit political suicide, the best course of action is to appeal his case to the people in the hope that they will rise up and do what he cannot. He may find out that things are not as easy in reality as they appear on paper.

The issue over which he has been unable to come to terms with the legislature is a vexing one, and one which is hardly unique to the Golden State. He wants to take redistricting out of the hands of elected politicians and give it to bureaucrats. The idea is not entirely without merit, although it flies in the face of the fundamental idea underpinning representative democracy.

The issue at hand is not redistricting, really. Itís really all about control, and no matter who wins the fight, control simply will not be vested in the people.

Way back in 1812, a fight developed in Massachusetts over the question of how to draw the boundaries of election districts. Political parties were relatively new in America then, and they fought one another in a rough-and-tumble atmosphere. When one party gaind the upper hand, it did whatever it could to cripple the others so it could solidify its hold on the machinery of government.

In the wake of the 1810 census, the Bay Stateís republicans, who were really democrats, came up with a plan to lock out the whigs who were their principal opponents. They would simply use the census data to redraw the boundaries of electoral districts in such a way that most of the whig voters were trapped in the same district. The plan would give the whigs assured victory in that district, but would make all of the surrounding districts solidly, or at least reliably, republican.

The man given credit for the plan, then as now, was Elbridge Gerry, who a few years later would briefly serve as James Madisonís second vice president. Gerry authored and carried the legislative bill that accomplished the sought after redistricting, and the technique ever since has been known as gerrymandering because, famously, a redistricting map printed in a newspaper showed a district shaped like a salamander.

The point is that, since those early days of the republic, legislatures across the nation have gerrymandered, drawing boundaries however they pleased with the goal of favoring the continued control of the legislature by the party in power.

Gov. Schwarzenegger doesnít like that, as well he might not, being a republican governor in a state where the democrats have a powerful lock on the legislature. Itís a spoils-of-war thing, where the winner takes everything and it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get it back. He tried to work out a redistricting deal with the legislature, but the democrats in control of it wouldnít give him the time of day. So, now he wants to present the question to the people as a ballot measure, hoping that they will succeed where he has not.

What the governor wants to do is create a panel of august citizens to dictate boundaries in the redistricting process. Itís an interesting idea, but highly impractical. And besides that, the legislature is our public voice Ė at least in theory.

We donít like the elitism implied by the redistricting commission plan, and we donít think the people of California should either. Eight commissioners will be appointed from a list of 50 or so. They will then elect six other members to join them on the panel. Those 14 will have the only vote that counts when it comes to redistricting.

As flawed as the system is today, redistricting decisions continue to be made by more than 100 people, elected by the people whom they serve. We just need to let them know weíve got our eyes on everything they do.

Thatíll be 2 cents, please.