Common Cause Backs Redistricting Reform Legislation

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  • Dale Eisman
Non-partisan Panels Would Draw Congressional Districts After Each Census

Redistricting reform legislation introduced Thursday in the House of Representatives would break up a system that allows politicians to choose their voters and would foster real two-party competition on Election Day, Common Cause said today.

“Allowing politicians to draw their own legislative districts is like allowing a fox to guard the henhouse,” said Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause. The proposed Redistricting Reform Act of 2015 “will provide guidance for states to create independent redistricting commissions like the successful one in California so that politicians cannot continue to manipulate election districts to their own advantage,” she said.

Feng praised Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, and Julia Brownley, all California Democrats, as well as all the original cosponsors, for introducing the bill.

Common Cause was a major force behind creation of California’s independent redistricting commission, which has quickly become a national model.

Under the Redistricting Reform Act: 

  • Each state would be required to establish an independent, multi-party redistricting commission to draw congressional districts after each decennial census. Commission members would be chosen using a system tailored to guarantee that the commission reflects the state’s demographics.
  • The independent commission would be required to draw districts that have equal population per representative, in accordance with US Constitution; comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965; are geographically compact and contiguous, with boundaries that minimize divisions of any community of interest, municipality, county, or neighborhood.
  • The independent redistricting commission also would be required to provide notice and an opportunity to the public to engage in the redistricting process.

In a case originating in Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court currently is considering whether the Constitution requires that state legislatures have at least some role in the redistricting process. In Arizona, a voter initiative created an independent commission to handle redistricting, sidelining the legislature. The bill introduced on Thursday gives the legislature in each state a role in the selection of redistricting commission members but not in the actual shaping of new districts.