In California, a citizens’ commission is now in charge of redistricting. That work, done every 10 years after the census is taken, is normally left to state legislators. The fact is many lawmakers were redrawing electoral districts to increase their own chances for re-election and to punish their political opponents — a process known as gerrymandering. Now, it’s being left to that citizens’ commission to figure out. The result: some of those running for re-election this year, who used to have safe seats, suddenly find themselves on the hot seat.
On a recent Saturday morning in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, hundreds of families gather for opening day of the local Little League season. Among those in the crowd: the local congressman, Democrat Brad Sherman. This year, he’s up for re-election and an event like this is an irresistible campaign stop.
By most accounts, people here like Sherman. Nonetheless, after 15 years in office, he’s fighting for his political life. The reason? A new experiment in democracy has radically changed California’s congressional map, throwing many once-safe incumbents like Sherman into competitive races.