Redistricting Watch: Updates on Several Fronts
Some excellent news to report on the effort to reform the way congressional districts are drawn (for previous posts on this topic, see the list below):
- First and foremost, I am delighted to be able to report that six more House members have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 2642, the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act sponsored by Rep. John Tanner of Tennesee. The bill's newest backers, whose support become official on Tuesday, are Democrats Eliot Engel (NY-17), Bart Gordon (TN-6), John Larson (CT-1), Anna Eshoo (CA-14) and Neil Abercrombie (HI-1), as well as Republican Phil Gingrey, who represents Georgia's 11th District. Gingrey becomes the second Republican representative (joining Tennessean Zach Wamp) to sign onto the bill.
On a personal note, I'm delighted that Rep. Abercrombie has joined; he and I share Union College as our alma mater. Support for this legislation continues to grow with each passing week, and the additional bipartisan spirit added by Gingrey's support is more than welcome. Following the August recess, I'll be unveiling a targeted plan to elicit support from others, particularly centrist Republicans from the Northeast and Midwest. We'll also need to persuade a senator to sponsor a companion bill in that chamber and start working on that front in the near future.
- Rep. Tanner's website now includes a page on the reform legislation, complete with an excellent summary of H.R. 2642, the bill's text and status pages, and photos and statements from the recent birthday party for Elbridge Gerry. This webpage will be a tremendous resource as we move forward, and I'm glad to see it up and running.
- A Congressional Research Service report on the constitutionality of Tanner's bill has been completed, and concludes "Article I, Section 4, of the Constitution expressly provides Congress with the power to enact laws governing the time, place, and manner of elections for Members of the House of Representatives. This express grant of power would appear to permit Congress to limit the number of times states can conduct congressional districting and to prescribe how such districting is conducted." For more on the bill's constitutionality, see my earlier post on that topic here.
- The San Antonio Express recently editorialized in support of Tanner's bill, saying in part:
"Texans have some firsthand knowledge of how elected leaders of both parties can manipulate the redistricting process for partisan gain. The wounds of the 2003 redistricting fight — which redrew congressional boundaries for the second time in as many years — are still fresh.
That battle royal was a political payback for decades of redistricting that drew lines in a different direction.
Aside from the partisan acrimony, the current method of redistricting creates a stunningly uncompetitive political environment. Politicians stack and pack voters into safe districts for both Republicans and Democrats.
Outside of Texas, where four incumbent Democrats were targeted in redistricting and defeated, only three of 399 congressional incumbents who ran for re-election lost their seats last November.
There is a better way. A handful of states already have independent commissions that take redistricting out of the hands of partisan, elected officials. State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has been a tireless advocate for this approach in Texas.
Tanner's proposal in Congress would make independent redistricting commissions the law of the land. Among the 36 bipartisan co-sponsors of his measure, astonishingly not one is from Texas.
Texas representatives, more than most, should understand the necessity for the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act. Texas voters should demand that they support it."
All Americans should ask the same of their own representatives. Real democracy only comes when we have real choice. If your congressional rep hasn't yet signed onto H.R. 2642, contact him or her, and encourage them to do so.
Previous Redistricting Watch posts:
- "Cosponsors Update" (7/22)
- "How Exactly do you Gerrymander a Birthday Cake?" (7/20)
- "Happy Birthday Mr. Gerry" (7/19)
- "Federal Authority in Historical Perspective" (7/16)
- "Blue Dogs, on the Scent" (7/12)
- "Cosponsors Update" (7/1)
- "Links, News, and Views" (6/24)
- "Polarization & Collegiality" (6/24)
- "Centrist Action on Redistricting Reform" (6/23)