On Heels of Supreme Court Ruling, Reps. Lofgren, Lowenthal, and Brownley Introduce Bill to End Partisan Gerrymandering to Protect Americans’ Right to Vote

June 28, 2019
Press Release
Legislation Would Require States to Establish Independent Redistricting Commissions to Redraw Lines that Disenfranchise Voters

Washington, D.C.—On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allows partisan gerrymandering in federal elections to continue, U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and Julia Brownley (CA-26) were joined by the majority of the California Democratic Delegation in introducing legislation to reform the nation’s patchwork redistricting system. The Redistricting Reform Act of 2019 would require all states to establish independent redistricting commissions to redraw congressional district lines after every decennial census. Following the bill’s introduction, the Representatives offered the following statements:

 

“If the U.S. Supreme Court won’t fight to protect Americans’ votes, then Congress will,” Rep. Lofgren said. “Our Democracy cannot function properly unless every person’s vote counts equally, and voters choose their elected officials, not the other way around. My bill would fix our broken redistricting process to ensure all voices are heard and politicians are held accountable.”

 

“For too long the political gerrymandering of our Congressional districts has undermined the public's trust in our democratic system,” Rep. Lowenthal said. “The Supreme Court ruled that the question of partisan gerrymandering in not-justiciable but can be limited by the States and Congress. The House did weigh in earlier this year with the passage of H.R. 1, which included the Redistricting Reform Act." Congressman Lowenthal said. “I am proud to join with my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation guaranteeing citizens in every state the same ability to draw Congressional district boundaries without the undue influence of partisan gamesmanship.”

 

“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,” Rep. Julia Brownley said. “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.”

 

Specifically, the Redistricting Reform Act of 2019:

 

  • Requires all states to establish independent redistricting commissions (IRC) for the purpose of developing and enacting congressional redistricting plans.

 

  • Establishes eligibility and disqualification factors and requires that diversity and individual’s skills be considered in establishing the pool from which commissioners are selected.

 

  • Requires IRCs to have 15 commissioners, evenly divided among three political affiliation subgroups (majority party, minority party, and unaffiliated/minor party).

 

  • Calls for commissioners to be appointed in two-stages and chosen from a pool of candidates, vetted for potential conflicts of interest: 1). nonpartisan agency randomly selects the first six commissioners; and 2). Six commissioners select the remaining nine commissioners using certain factors.

 

  • Sets forth specific redistricting criteria IRCs are to consider in developing a redistricting plan: 1). The U.S. Constitution; 2). The Voting Rights Act of 1965; 3). An equal opportunity for all groups to participate in the political process; and 4). Respect for communities of interest.

 

  • Requires IRCs to hold a minimum number of public hearings for public comment before a redistricting plan will be enacted, and requires a majority vote, including at least one commissioner from each political affiliation subgroup to enact a plan.

 

  • Includes prior work history and political affiliation restrictions, as well as disclosure requirements, for staff and contractors paid by state redistricting agencies.

 

  • Authorizes the Election Assistance Commission to make payments to eligible states for the purpose of setting up IRCs and conducting redistricting.

 

  • Provides that a three-judge court will develop and enact a plan if a state fails to establish an IRC or enact a congressional redistricting plan by an IRC; and allows the D.C. or local circuit court to conduct the state’s redistricting, where an aggrieved party notifies the court of a state’s failure to establish an IRC or enact an IRC plan.

 

  • Allows the Attorney General or any private citizen who is aggrieved by the failure of a state to meet the requirements of this bill, either in the D.C. district court or in the state’s local circuit court, to sue to enforce the bill.

 

Original cosponsors of the Redistricting Reform Act include:

 

  1. U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
  2. U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7)
  3. U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26)
  4. U.S. Rep. Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24)
  5. U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
  6. U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)
  7. U.S. Rep. Gilbert R. Cisneros (CA-39)
  8. U.S. Rep. Luis J. Correa (CA-46)
  9. U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16)
  10. U.S. Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21)
  11. U.S. Rep. Susan A. Davis (CA-53)
  12. U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)
  13. U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18)
  14. U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3)
  15. U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA-34)
  16. U.S. Rep. Josh Harder (CA-10)
  17. U.S. Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25)
  18. U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2)
  19. U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17)
  20. U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (CA-49)
  21. U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33)
  22. U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
  23. U.S. Rep. Doris O. Matsui (CA-6)
  24. U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
  25. U.S. Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32)
  26. U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20)
  27. U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52)
  28. U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (CA-45)
  29. U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda (CA-48)
  30. U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)
  31. U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
  32. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28)
  33. U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (CA-30)
  34. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14)
  35. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15)
  36. U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41)
  37. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5)
  38. U.S. Rep. Norma J. Torres (CA-35)
  39. U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51)