Remarks on Signing a Petition for a California Referendum on Reapportionment

September 22, 1981

Today, I'm taking a break from my normal duties to do something that every private citizen I think should do, and that is to take an interest in his home State politics.

Protecting the integrity of our electoral system and the voting franchise, I think, is of concern to all Americans. What is happening in California, if not corrected, could damage fairness at the polls for a generation of Californians, attacking the heart of our system of representative government. While all States struggle with reapportionment, the situation in California seems to have gotten out of hand. For this reason, I'm signing petitions today that will place the issue of reapportionment before the voters of California. I do so sadly, because I feel that had members of the California Legislature met their responsibility, this petition drive would be unnecessary.

In June of 1980, the people passed Proposition 6, which became article 21 to the California constitution. This article requires to the extent possible that redistricting respect city and county integrity, as well as regional integrity. It also mandated a reasonable equality of population, sequential numbering, and the contiguity of districts. The plan that emerged from the Democratic-controlled legislature violates the spirit and the letter of this article of the California constitution. Under the current plan, there's even one congressional district up in the San Francisco area that travels across the bay twice -- without a bridge -- incorporating parts of three counties solely for political purposes. [Laughter]

The reapportionment plan as it now stands effectively disenfranchises large numbers of California voters. It is not just unfair to Republicans, it's unfair to the people. Given the opportunity, we're certain the voters will reject this power play and opt for fairness. And that's exactly what this drive is -- an appeal for fairness. This signature drive wouldn't be necessary if the majority of the California Legislature had done their duty to enact a reasonable reapportionment plan.

I can't help but wonder if the time hasn't come to take reapportionment out of politics and have it done by a blue ribbon citizen committee on the basis of what is good for the people, not just the party that happens to be in power.

And with that said, I will sign these petitions and, in doing so, I ask all fair-minded citizens, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in California, to join with me.

Note: The President spoke at 11:21 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The petition signing ceremony was attended by national and California State Republican leaders, and members of the California congressional delegation.