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.
In the Courts
Common Cause v. Rucho: Common Cause is the lead plaintiff in a historic and successful challenge to North Carolina’s congressional map. After the map was struck down as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in 2016, leaders in the legislature announced that they would redraw districts with the explicit intent to ensure that 10 of 13 remain in Republican control. Common Cause sued on the grounds that the new districts are an illegal partisan gerrymander. In a case consolidated with League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho, we won on all counts, the first defeat of a congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in U.S. history. Although the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the trial court’s order, which means that districts will not be redrawn in time for the 2018 elections, the case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.
Benisek v. Lamone: In a case originally brought by a Common Cause Maryland member, plaintiffs are challenging Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District, stating that it represents an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Following the 2010 census, the Democratic governor and Democrats in the legislature drew districts to defeat one of the state’s two Republican members of Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court heard this case on March 28, 2018. Common Cause filed amicus briefs in several stages of the litigation and helped to organize other briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court’s decision to take the case now suggests a strong willingness to address the problem of partisan gerrymandering before the term ends in June 2018.
Gill v. Whitford: In 2016, the Campaign Legal Center won a historic victory when a federal court struck down Wisconsin’s State Assembly map as an illegal partisan gerrymander. The U.S. Supreme Court heard Wisconsin’s appeal on October 3, 2017. Common Cause was one of the lead organizations in charge of managing amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs’ efforts. The nine briefs we helped to organize demonstrate the broad and bipartisan support for an end to the manipulation of our legislative districts. A decision in this case is expected by the end of June 2018.
In the States
Common Cause is leading the fight for fair representation across the country. For more information on active reform campaigns, contact the following state leaders:
California*: From drafting to passage, California Common Cause led the successful fight to create California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission. We’re 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. See www.localredistricting.org for more information. Contact Nicolas Heidorn, California Common Cause policy and legislation counsel.
Colorado*: Colorado Common Cause has endorsed two ballot propositions that would create citizen redistricting commissions to draw state legislative and congressional boundaries in Colorado. Advocates will soon begin gathering signatures to place the initiatives on the November 2018 ballot. Contact Amanda Gonzalez, Colorado Common Cause executive director.
Georgia: Common Cause organized a Gerrymander Tour around the state and is working with coalition partners to pass legislation that would reform the process for drawing Georgia’s districts. Contact Sarah Henderson, Common Cause Georgia executive director.
Indiana: After successfully advocating for the creation of a legislative study committee to recommend reforms to the legislature, Common Cause Indiana is working with legislators to create protections against political manipulation of the state’s legislative maps. Contact Julia Vaughn, Common Cause Indiana policy analyst.
Maryland: The Tame the Gerrymander coalition continues to use fun events to shine a spotlight on a serious problem that has resulted in the most gerrymandered congressional district in the country. Contact Damon Effingham, Common Cause Maryland interim executive director.
Michigan*: Voters Not Politicians gathered almost 450,000 signatures for a 2018 ballot initiative to create an independent citizen commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts. They are currently waiting for find out if a sufficient number of signatures have been verified.
Minnesota: Common Cause Minnesota helped to defeat legislation that would have enshrined the legislature’s power to draw districts and is now organizing a coalition to pursue redistricting reform. Contact Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, Common Cause Minnesota executive director.
Missouri*: Clean Missouri submitted signatures for a 2018 ballot initiative that would assign redistricting to a nonpartisan state demographer who would be required to draw districts that do not give one party an unfair advantage. The initiative also includes campaign finance and ethics provisions.
North Carolina: Common Cause North Carolina is a leader of the End Gerrymandering Now coalition, a strong right-left collection of unlikely allies who believe that political gerrymandering should play no role in redistricting. Contact Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.
Ohio*: Building on the momentum of state legislative redistricting reform Ohioans passed in 2015 with strong bipartisan support, Common Cause Ohio and the Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition we help to lead gathered more than 200,000 signatures for similar reform of congressional redistricting. As a result of the pressure this effort put on legislators, the General Assembly negotiated with the coalition to put a strong reform package on the May 2018 ballot; designated Issue 1, the package was approved with 75 percent support. Contact Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio executive director.
Pennsylvania: Common Cause Pennsylvania recruited nine of 13 plaintiffs in a successful lawsuit brought by the Public Interest Law Center that resulted in a ruling that Pennsylvania’s congressional map is an illegal partisan gerrymander that violates the state constitution. We also help to lead Fair Districts PA, a broad coalition of organizations dedicated to ending gerrymandering in the state through advocacy and public education. Contact Micah Sims, Common Cause Pennsylvania executive director.
Wisconsin: Common Cause Wisconsin has been active in public education and advocacy in support of empowering nonpartisan state legislative staff to draw districts in the state. Contact Jay Heck, Common Cause Wisconsin Executive Director.
*An asterisk indicates that a state has a direct democracy ballot initiative option.