Washington, D.C. – Democratic lawmakers led by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), and John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced legislation today to end partisan gerrymandering and reform the nation’s patchwork redistricting system.
The Redistricting Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 1102), introduced by 47 House Democrats and supported by Common Cause, will require states to establish independent, multi-party citizen redistricting commissions to draw open and transparent statewide district maps after each decennial census. The bill is a component of the “By the People” Legislative Package advanced by the Democracy Reform Task Force.
In many states, electoral maps are currently drawn behind closed doors to protect incumbent seats by whatever party holds a statewide majority. Sometimes this process is accelerated in order to swing the outcome of upcoming elections, or in other cases, the two major parties cut backroom deals to preserve the status quo and ensure years of noncompetitive elections.
“The issue of redistricting reform is one that is central to our democracy,” said Lofgren. “Too often, politicians choose their voters instead of voters picking their elected officials. The Redistricting Reform Act fixes this by creating an apolitical redistricting process where politicians can be held accountable by their voters.”
“For too long the political gerrymandering of our Congressional districts has undermined the public’s trust in our democratic system,” said Lowenthal. “To ensure every American’s right to fair representation, it is time for the political backroom’s influence on the ballot box to be severed. This bill would guarantee each citizen in every state the same ability to draw Congressional district boundaries without the influence and gamesmanship of politics.”
“Now, more than ever before, we must restore the trust of the American people in our democracy and in the principle that every vote counts,” said Brownley. “Gerrymandering districts erodes the trust of the people and undermines democratic principles. Utilizing independent citizen redistricting commissions will result in a more transparent election process and more accountable representation.”
“We must restore the public’s confidence in the way that Congressional districts are drawn,” said Sarbanes, Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force. “That’s why I am committed to creating national, independent and objective standards for drawing Congressional districts on a nationwide scale. Rather than piecemeal reform on a state-by-state basis, implementing federal redistricting reform will ensure a more fair and impartial process for drawing Congressional districts.”
Under the Redistricting Reform Act of 2016:
- Each state would be required to establish an independent, multi-party redistricting commission to draw Congressional district maps.
- Specific eligibility requirements ensure that members of the commissions cannot have certain conflicts of interests, such as lobbyists, political donors or party operatives, and must reflect the diversity of the state while operating transparently.
- The criteria for a redistricting plan developed by the independent commission provides that districts must:
- have equal population per representative, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution;
- comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965;
- be geographically contiguous and compact, as well as have boundaries that minimize the division of any community of interest, municipality, county, or neighborhood.
- The commission must provide ample notice and opportunity for the public to provide input and engage in the redistricting process.
Original cosponsors of the Redistricting Reform Act include U.S. Reps. Boyle (D-Pa.), Brown (D-Md.), Brownley (D-Calif.), Clay (D-Mo.), Cohen (D-Tenn.), S. Davis (D-Calif.), Delaney (D-Md.), DeFazio (D-Ore.), Dingell (D-Mich.), Ellison (D-Minn.), Eshoo (D-Calif.), Esty (D-Con.), Foster (D-Ill.), Garamendi (D-Calif.), Hastings (D-Fla.), Hoyer (D-Md.), E.B. Johnson (D-Texas), H. Johnson (D-Texas), Kaptur (D-Ohio), Larson (D-Conn.), Lawrence (D-Mich.), Lee (D-Calif.), Lieu (D-Calif.), Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Matsui (D-Calif.), Nadler (D-N.Y.), Norton (D-District of Columbia), O’Rourke (D-Texas), Pelosi (D-Calif.), Pingree (D-Maine), Quigley (D-Ill.), Raskin (D-Md.), T. Ryan (D-Ohio), Sarbanes (D-Md.), Schiff (D-Calif.), Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), Sherman (D-Calif.), Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Swalwell (D-Calif.), Takano (D-Calif.), Thompson (D-Calif.), Veasey (D-Texas), Welch (D-Vt.) , Yarmuth (D-Ky.).