Common Cause Supports Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act



Common Cause commends Representative John Tanner (D-TN) for his leadership in proposing reform of a glaring problem with our democracy, the self-serving role that incumbent Members of Congress play in drawing their own district lines. Representative Tanner and the other Members supporting this bill will make few friends in the Capitol with this effort, but they will be heroes to those outside this building who know that this reform is critical to keeping our elections vibrant and competitive.

Common Cause has a long history of working on redistricting reform. We know that when elected officials are in charge of this process, they naturally make decisions and draw maps that keep their own seats safe from any would-be challengers. Unfortunately, it’s the voters who lose. Too often voters step into the voting booth and cast a vote for a congressional seat that has a pre-determined winner.

We need to put the power to draw political lines across the country in the hands of truly independent commissions, and we need to put the power of the vote back in the hands of the voter. And we need to ensure that redistricting is done only once in decade, after the decennial reapportionment.

For decades partisan wrangling has led to gerrymandered redistricting maps, collusion among the major political parties to create safe Congressional and state legislative districts, and the packing and splitting of concentrations of voters to weaken or strengthen their influence to gain partisan advantage. In recent years, advances in information and mapping technology has enabled a level of precision in district drawing that in effect, enables legislators to choose the voters they wish to represent and makes it difficult for voters to hold their elected officials accountable.

The 2004 races for the U.S. House of Representatives are illustrative of these problems:

‘ More than 85 percent of House incumbents won by landslide majorities of more than 60 percent.

‘ Only seven incumbents, of 399 running, lost their seats. That’s a 98.2% re-election rate.

‘ Outside of Texas, where a mid-cycle Republican redistricting effort led to the defeat of four targeted incumbent Democrats, only three incumbents lost their seats — a greater than 99 percent incumbent re-election rate for House members in 49 states.

Common Cause endorses H.R. 2642, which would establish fair criteria for the Congressional redistricting process in the states and takes critical steps to remove this process from those looking to make partisan gains at the expense of the voters. We look forward to working with the Congressman and the bipartisan group of cosponsors to ensure that the bill protects state redistricting processes that go beyond the objectives of the bill, to ensure that the bill maximizes accountability and transparency measures so that the public can have full confidence in the redistricting process and to make sure that redistricting commissions are truly independent.

Common Cause supports the effort today to set national standards for redistricting reform, and we will continue our nationwide campaign to reform how state legislative and Congressional districts are drawn, pursuing initiative and legislative strategies to establish independent commissions and to create competitive elections. We are actively working in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Texas and several other states.

Our goal is to take the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan politicians and to establish fair criteria to guide the redistricting process that will lead to legislative and congressional districts that are representative of the population and districting plans that result in more competitive congressional and legislative districts.