State Reform Initiatives
Common Cause believes that redistricting is just way too important to leave it solely in the hands of self-interested, partisan politicians!
So, below are some examples of actual redistricting reform efforts. While different, they all have at least the goal of more fully engaging citizens in redistricting and some go so far as to actually have non-elected bodies of citizens drawing the legislative maps in a non-partisan way.
At the heart of the matter, Common Cause supports Non-Partisan, Independent, Citizen Redistricting commissions.
While that sure is a mouthful, let’s face it, if you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you always got…and when it comes to redistricting and politicians it’s not too pretty!
Campaign Legal Center Model
This model language has transparency as its prime goal. It lays out what the redistricting body should do to make the process visible as well as accessible to the public. This includes a public website with user friendly software and intructions for public involvement in map drawing. Learn more.
In 2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issued an Executive Order creating an Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting. It features 11 neutral members, accepts public input, and seeks to create the most just and non-prejudicial districts in accordance with the requirements of state and federal law. To encourage public participation in the redistricting process, the state joined with the Public Mapping Project, which allowed citizens to devise and draw up their own redistricting plans online. A student collegiate competition was held for best alternative maps submitted and prizes awarded to the winning entries. Learn more.
In February 2011, Governor Cuomo announced his Redistricting Reform Act of 2011, (S. 3419/A. 5388) which seeks to reform the way lines are drawn for Congressional and State legislative seats by creating an Independent Redistricting Commission. The bill also would require that the bi-partisan commission reflect the state’s diversity and its members be free of any conflicts of interest. It is the strongest of several bills that would improve the redistricting process in New York State. Common Cause/NY is also convening a NY Citizens Redistricting Committee, a bipartisan 13-member panel of prominent New Yorkers, to critique the redistricting process – whether it’s done by a new, independent commission or by the State Legislature. The committee will advise the governor on the acceptability of the process and the maps drawn; it also will focus on the mapping process, highlighting areas where the commission or the Legislature is leaving lines gerrymandered and conducting meetings around the state to hold them accountable. Learn more.
In 2008, California Common Cause lead the successful effort to pass Proposition 11, creating a qualified, diverse, and balanced independent commission to draw legislative districts and required that state legislative districts and Board of Equalization districts be drawn according to criteria that prioritize the Voting Rights Act and the preservation of communities of interest, neighborhoods, cities, and counties. In 2010, again with California Common Cause’s active support, state voters extended the commission’s authority to cover Congressional redistricting. The independent redistricting commission strives for complete transparency. Their website includes member bios, detailed minutes and agendas of hearings, places for public input, drafts maps, applicable laws/regulations, and much more. Learn more.
Last November, 63% of Florida voters voted YES on Amendments 5 & 6 – an historic move to end gerrymandering and prevent politicians from making backroom deals to draw district lines that ensure their own re-election. These important amendments put into the Florida Constitution standards for the legislature to follow in legislative and Congressional redistricting. They prohibit districts drawn with the intent to favor incumbents or political parties. The amendments also protect minority voting rights and require that districts be compact and community-based. This is a huge victory – and one that needs protecting.
Common Cause Florida is working with other organizations to develop a coalition of citizen groups to monitor the redistricting process. Learn more.
In North Carolina, House Bill 824 seeks to take redistricting out of the realm of partisan politics by placing it in the hands of the state’s Legislative Services Office. The objective is to create fair districts without regard to party affiliations or past election results.
Common Cause North Carolina, as a coalition member in the North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform, is working hard to keep politics out of the redistricting process and make the process open and transparent for all North Carolinians.