Thursday, June 07, 2007

Redistricting Watch: Restarting the Clock

It's been a while, but now that the new Congress is in place it's time once again to start thinking about reforming the way congressional districts are created.

Reps. John Tanner and Zach Wamp have reintroduced the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act for the 110th Congress; this time around it's H.R. 543. It has already gained 23 cosponsors, with hopefully many more to come. Like last session's version, H.R. 543 would create independent redistricting commissions for each state, to take the redistricting process out of partisan hands, and would ban mid-decade redistricting efforts.

Earlier this week, Reps. Tanner and Wamp, as well as Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California (the sponsor of a different redistricting plan) sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and ranking member Lamar Smith urging them to hold hearings on the redistricting reform proposals. They write, in part:

"Since the time of Elbridge Gerry, state legislatures have used their power to draw Congressional maps for partisan gain. Improvements in technology and an increasing willingness to participate in "mid-decade redistricting" have taken the gerrymandering process to new extremes. As a result, large numbers of voters are being marginalized while the climate in Washington, D.C., has grown more polarized.

Redistricting reform is not and should not be a partisan cause. Both Democrats and Republicans have engaged in gerrymandering and the recent increase in mid-decade redistricting may spark retaliatory measures in other states. That is why good government advocates, public interest groups, major newspaper editorial boards and dozens of Members of Congress have demanded that some type of reform be instituted to guarantee a voice for every voter. It is time for the House of Representatives to examine the process used for drawing its Members' districts.

Under Article I of the Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate how districts for the House are drawn. Again, we ask that you schedule a hearing in the Committee on the Judiciary to review the fundamental problems with the flawed redistricting process and consider some of the solutions that have been proposed."

I strongly support their efforts, and would urge everyone to contact the Judiciary Committee and/or Reps. Conyers and Smith to express their support for hearings about this important issue. Also, if you haven't yet done so, please contact your own representative and ask them to support H.R. 543 by signing on as a cosponsor.

Previous Redistricting Watch posts here (full list at end of post).


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