Earlier this month, Professor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to a packed classroom of students taking the Schwarzenegger Institute’s ‘Fixing American Democracy and Misrepresentation’ class.
Professor Schwarzenegger started his lecture by sharing the story of working with legislators in Sacramento soon after being elected governor during the 2003 recall election. He explained that Democrats and Republicans in the legislature fought with each other over many policies, and would only be bipartisan to protect their own legislative districts. Quickly becoming annoyed with how politicians unfairly gerrymandered voting lines, Governor Schwarzenegger successfully pushed for ballot initiatives that would give the power to a nonpartisan commission to create U.S. House, state legislative districts, and Board of Equalization districts.
Even though a Republican, Governor Schwarzenegger wanted to produce political reforms that allow both Democrats and Republicans to work together. Schwarzenegger told the students that California led the way to implement these reforms. Even though legislators of both political parties opposed it, with Schwarzenegger’s backing, Proposition 11 was passed by the voters to create the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Schwarzenegger explained to the class how through Prop 11 California “terminated gerrymandering.”
Professor Schwarzenegger also noted that before California’s reforms, few people were interested in gerrymandering or redistricting, and that he was pleased to see a packed lecture hall of students ready to learn and take action around gerrymandering, top-two primaries, and other political reforms. He encouraged the students to exercise their brains in this class to come up with the next generation of political reform ideas.
Today, Governor Schwarzenegger not only remains committed to the fight against gerrymandering, but he is also actively advocating for other states to follow in California’s footsteps and establish their own citizens’ redistricting commission. In 2018, Arnold encouraged voters in Missouri, Michigan, Colorado, and Utah to vote to terminate gerrymandering in their respective states. Despite wins in these states, Governor Schwarzenegger knows the fight will have to continue, especially in the 2020 elections.