In America, elections are supposed to represent the will of the people, not politicians.
But partisan politicians manipulate voting maps to keep themselves and their party in power. We need to reform the rules and make the process of drawing districts impartial and transparent so our government is of, by, and for the people.
Every 10 years, states re-draw the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts. Redistricting is supposed to reflect changes in population and ensure that everyone is fairly represented.
But politicians draw districts to give themselves or their party an unfair advantage. Common Cause believes voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.
We’re working to create better ways to draw districts that fairly represent your state’s communities. We support reforms including the creation of independent redistricting commissions, the hiring of non-partisan state staff, and clear, constitutional rules for how lines should be drawn. Read our redistricting principles.
In the Courts
Common Cause has lead the fight for fair representation in the courts. We were plaintiffs in Rucho v. Common Cause, a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging the Republican gerrymander of North Carolina that sought end partisan gerrymandering nationwide. The high court heard our case, along with Lamone v. Benisek, a case challenging the Democratic gerrymander of Maryland, in March of 2019. While we were hopeful that the Supreme Court would use these cases to set a standard that would put an end to extreme partisan gerrymandering and help Americans nationwide secure fair maps, five justices were too afraid to act. This decision makes our efforts in states and local communities even more important. Our next step in litigation is to challenge partisan gerrymanders in state courts on state constitutional grounds like voters successfully did in Pennsylvania. We’re already in the process of challenging North Carolina’s gerrymandered state legislative maps in state court in Common Cause v. Lewis.
We have also led the amicus brief strategy in several U.S. Supreme Court cases on fair representation.
In the States
Common Cause is leading the fight for fair representation at the ballot box and at the grassroots in many states. Voters passed redistricting reform in several states in 2018. Read our one-pager on redistricting fights being waged across America.
California: From drafting to passage, California Common Cause led the successful fight to create California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission. We’ve now partnered with the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law to provide resources to local governments that are interested in bringing that reform to the local level. On Election Day 2018, citizens voted YES to approve independent redistricting commissions in Santa Barbara County and the City of Long Beach. Common Cause worked closely with city officials and community leaders on the passage of Long Beach Measure DDD. Read more about the Long Beach proposal here and go to www.localredistricting.org for more information on the Local Redistricting Project. Contact Nicolas Heidorn, California Common Cause policy and legislation counsel.
Colorado: In the 2018 general election, Colorado residents voted overwhelmingly in support of Constitutional Amendments Y and Z, both winning 70% of the vote. These amendments will create two citizen redistricting commissions to draw state legislative and congressional boundaries in Colorado. Colorado Common Cause endorsed the two ballot measures and the Colorado State Legislature placed measures Y and Z on the ballot with by unanimous votes. Contact Amanda Gonzalez, Colorado Common Cause executive director.
Michigan: On Election Day 2018, Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, creating an independent citizen commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Voters Not Politicians gathered more than 425,000 signatures for Proposal 2. Common Cause supported the effort by organizing and filing an amicus brief in the Michigan Supreme Court with former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.).
Missouri: Missouri voters approved Amendment 1 on Election Day 2018, with 62% of voters supporting the reform. Clean Missouri led the campaign to pass Amendment 1. Starting in the next redistricting cycle, a nonpartisan state demographer will be assigned to draw Missouri’s state legislative districts and is required to draw districts that do not give any one party an unfair advantage. Amendment 1 also includes campaign finance, transparency, and ethics provisions.
Utah: In November, Utah voters passed Proposition 4, the Better Boundaries initiative. This reform created a citizens advisory commission to draw districts in the state. The legislature must approve the plan and has the option to draw its own map instead, but the measure empowers a state court to strike down the legislature’s plan if it does not adhere to the nonpartisan criteria the initiative mandates.”
In January of 2019, Common Cause collaborated with Duke University’s POLIS and the Sanford School of Public Policy on the Reason, Reform, and Redistricting Conference. This event brought together some of the top activists, litigators, and academics working to end gerrymandering across the country. Watch video from almost every panel discussion here.
Common Cause’s Partisan Gerrymandering Writing Competition is generating important scholarship and making a difference in court. Common Cause sponsors a writing competition to generate academic papers useful to litigators to make the case that partisan gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. One winner served as an expert witness in Common Cause v. Rucho. After a federal court ruled that Virginia’s congressional map was an illegal racial gerrymander, we collaborated with another set of winners to submit a brief to the court. This brief, the only one of its kind, guided the court expert chosen to redraw districts by assessing the partisan fairness of proposed replacement maps the public submitted.