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House Democrats introduce redistricting reform legislation to end partisan gerrymandering

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Washington, April 30, 2015 | Contact: Peter Whippy (202-225-3072) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Democratic lawmakers led by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), and Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) introduced new legislation today to end partisan gerrymandering and reform the nation’s patchwork redistricting system.

The Redistricting Reform Act of 2015, introduced by 19 House Democrats and supported by Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza, will require states to establish independent, multi-party citizen redistricting commissions to draw open and transparent statewide district maps after each decennial census.

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, and now that the matter is before the U.S. Supreme Court, it has never been more important,” said Lofgren. “What we see now is too often a troubling reality in which politicians choose their voters instead of voters picking their elected officials. The Redistricting Reform Act fixes this by creating a more transparent electoral process to hold politicians accountable to the people they represent.”

“I believe that districts drawn by incumbents to protect their jobs makes politicians less accountable to their constituents and more accountable to the special interests, which has eroded public trust and contributed to a deep and intractable dysfunction in Congress,” said Brownley. “California’s citizen-driven redistricting process proved that government of, for, and by the people is not only possible, but its success makes it imperative. Utilizing independent citizen redistricting commissions will result in a more transparent election process and more accountable representation.”

“For far too long our nation’s congressional district lines have been subject to political gerrymandering, which has undermined the public’s confidence in our democratic system,” said Lowenthal. “But there is another way – letting the people draw the lines. Our bill would ensure that communities’ voices are heard by creating a transparent, citizen-driven process to draw our district lines.”

“I have long supported the kind of redistricting reform that will end the partisan manipulation that scars our democracy,” said Edwards. “The Redistricting Reform Act will open up the democratic process and end the partisan gerrymandering that too often has left Americans without fair representation. As the Democracy for All Task Force chair, I look forward to encouraging other members in supporting this critical legislation.”

Under the Redistricting Reform Act of 2015:

  • 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.

Click here for the bill text and a summary of the legislation.

Original cosponsors of the Redistricting Reform Act include U.S. Reps. Boyle (PA-13), Brownley (CA-26), Capps (CA-24), Davis (CA-53), Edwards (MD-04), Eshoo (CA-18), Grijalva (AZ-03), Honda (CA-17), Larson (CT-01), Lieu (CA-33), Lofgren (CA-19), Lowenthal (CA-47), Norton (DC), Pelosi (CA-12), Price (NC-04), Sarbanes (MD-03), Schiff (CA-28), Swalwell (CA-15), Thompson (CA-05), Van Hollen (MD-08), Vargas (CA-51), Welch (VT), and Yarmuth (KY-03).

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