Districts are Too Big, Legislative Bodies Too Small
Joe Mathews at Fox and Hounds:
You may have heard about efforts like “Run For Something,” which encourage younger folks – mostly Democrats – to stop complaining and start running for office. Because we need new blood in politics in these very difficult times.
That’s a good point. But in California, the Run for Something idea faces a practical problem. There isn’t that much something to run for.
That’s because our elected legislatures and councils are way too small. In other states – and especially in other countries – city councils in small places are often relatively big: 40 or 50 seats. That allows regular folks who care about their community – instead of the professionally or politically ambitious – to run for office and serve locally.
But in California, running even for local office is a production. Cities typically have just five seats. Developers and unions tend to handpick candidates. School boards also are similarly small. And counties have fewer than 10 supervisors.
And in bigger cities, forget it. Los Angeles, with 4 million people, has just 15 council members.
And if you’re interested in state office? Forget it.
John Cox, the Republican candidate for governor, is easy to mock for his neighborhood legislature proposal that might elect 10,000 people. But he has a point. A state of 40 million people needs a much bigger legislature than the 120-person body that was established in 1879, when California was home to a million people.
But you can’t run and win for legislature without professional help and big-money backing.
You can’t just Run for Something.
So now is the time to focus on expanding representation – larger city councils, larger school boards, larger boards of supervisors, and a larger legislature – to fit a much larger California. If the idea is to give more people a seat at the table, we’re going to need more seats.
A couple of examples:
- A single state senate district in California has about 981,000 people on average. That is more than the entire population of South Dakota.
- A single Los Angeles County supervisorial district has 1.97 million. That is more than Nebraska.