A shoddy report

ProPublica’s examination of the state redistricting process lacks credibility

Ordinarily the online investigative news site ProPublica does good work, but its recent probe into California’s redistricting process, over which Republicans have made a big fuss, simply stank.

ProPublica’s conclusion was that Democratic operatives mounted a clandestine effort to manipulate the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission into drawing district lines that favored Democrats.

As numerous pundits, analysts and even members of the commission have since pointed out, that’s simply not true. The Democrats’ only sin, as venerable Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters pointed out, was that “they practiced politics. … [I]t was just heads-up, professional politics, and [Republican Party state Chairman Tom Del Beccaro] should be castigating those in his own party for falling asleep at the switch.”

The fact is that lots of interest groups tried to influence the commission. That was how the process worked. Some were more successful than others, but it wasn’t anything nefarious. The commission itself—made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four “decline to state” members—fulfilled its mandate admirably, listening to people up and down the state as it worked in a nonpartisan manner to draw fair district lines.

As Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts note on the political website Calbuzz, the Pro-Publica authors’ most egregious error was their failure to include mention of an interview conducted with Eric McGhee of the Public Policy Institute of California, one of the state’s top nonpartisan reapportionment experts, during which he explained that the gains forecast for Democrats represented a logical and expected result given a) demographic changes in the last decade and b) the criteria the commission was charged with using.

Not a word of the interview, or a 45-page report McGhee provided, was included in the article.

“If there was a credible argument on the other side” of ProPublica’s conclusion, McGhee told Callbuzz, “I don’t understand why they didn’t include it.”

Nor do we.