If you need to know why redistricting reform matters, take a look at next month's primary ballot.
Around the Northern San Joaquin Valley, there isn't a single contested seat in any of the party races. What's more, many politicians face only token or no opposition in November.
Political districts have been drawn to favor whoever's in power, and that benefits ... well, whoever's in power.
California voters likely will get to have a say on redistricting later this year, in the form of potentially two ballot initiatives.
The first one, in the process of having its signatures verified, is the creation of good-government watchdog California Common Cause.
If approved, it would take redistricting -- the practice of drawing legislative districts -- largely out of the hands of legislators, and make it the duty of a 14-member panel.
The panel would have five Democrats, five Republicans and four members who are not affiliated with either party. The members would be picked by an independent board and would have to be active voters but not current or recent politicians.
The panel would draw districts for Assembly, state Senate and state Board of Equalization members. It would have to follow specific guidelines and meet in public.
Common Cause's proposal has the support of Gov. Schwarzenegger, former Gov. Davis, AARP, the League of Women Voters and groups on both sides of the political aisle.
"Each one individually looked at the situation and said the system is broken," said Kathay Feng, California Common Cause's executive director.
But alas, not quite everyone agrees. Ex-Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has announced plans for his own redistricting ballot measure (with 17 members picked by the Legislature), ethics reform and, oh yeah, tweaks to term limits.
Voters may recall that attempted reform of the last item -- partly because it would have benefited Núñez -- took a trouncing at the polls in February.
Feng said she's concerned that Núñez's measure will steal thunder from her group's and possibly confuse voters into rejecting both measures, leaving redistricting in the hands of politicians.
November's election may not have many competitive races. But if you hope for better democracy in years to come, the redistricting reform war will be one to watch.
RECALL, REDUX: A few more interesting points have come up since state Senate Pro Tem Don Perata called off his involvement in the recall against Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater.
Political insiders have whispered that Perata saw his cause losing June 3 and jumped off a sinking ship.
Another possible factor was the unlikelihood of the Democrats increasing their majority in the state Senate.
Part of Perata's reason to recall Denham and replace him with a Democrat is that it would leave Democrats needing only one more seat to get the two-thirds majority necessary to pass some bills, such as the state budget, without Republican support.
GOP-held Senate districts in Southern California and on the Central Coast were seen as Democratic targets this fall. But the incumbent in the Central Coast seat, Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, is running without Democrat opposition in November.
That means that even if the Denham recall succeeds, the party still has to win the 19th Senate District of termed-out Republican Sen. Tom McClintock for that two-thirds majority. With so little margin for error, Perata, termed out himself, may have abandoned the idea of unchecked state Senate control.
Local pro-recall forces say they're still in the fight, even if state backers have pulled out. It's curious, then, that the California secretary of state's office reported three donations to the pro-recall campaign this week from the Democratic State Central Committee Of California, most assuredly not a local group.
What's more, on Friday that office reported a donation to the pro-recall side from Leadership California, a campaign committee controlled by Perata.
That reinforces the cynical notion that no matter how the recall plays out, Perata wins.
If it's unsuccessful, he can say he heard the will of voters in Denham's 12th Senate District and withdrew his support.
And if it succeeds, Perata will have helped engineer a party seat gain, while publicly washing his hands of the affair.
There's a reason some call Perata the godfather of California politics. Blessed are the peacemakers, indeed.
MAIL CALL: One reader wondered whether the hike in postage rates that took effect a week ago would cause a problem with his absentee primary ballot, because he'd put a 41-cent stamp on the ballot before the change took effect but mailed it after the rate was bumped to 42 cents.
The Stanislaus County registrar of voters office reports that in such situations, election offices will accept ballots with insufficient postage and eat the difference.
Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2331.