U.S. House: CLC Urges Members to Co-Sponsor Redistricting Transparency Bill

CLC Staff
May 12, 2010
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Today the Campaign Legal Center urged Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 4918, the Redistricting Transparency Act of 2010 introduced March 23 by Representatives John Tanner (D-TN) and Michael Castle (R-DE).  In a letter to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert and Policy Director Meredith McGehee outlined the legislative effort to allow greater transparency, citizen involvement, and accountability into the redistricting process.  The Redistricting Transparency Act would open the secretive process of drawing Congressional district lines to greater public scrutiny. 

Under the legislation, state redistricting entities would be required to establish and maintain a website providing relevant information about the redistricting process as it is underway.  Public hearings would also be required to allow increased public participation in and knowledge about the development of Congressional boundaries. Furthermore, the Redistricting Transparency Act creates an additional level of accountability by requiring redistricting entities to publish the reasoning behind why a final proposal was chosen, along with any dissenting opinions.   

The full letter follows below.

 

May 12, 2010

 

Dear Representative:

The Campaign Legal Center strongly urges you to join as a sponsor of H.R. 4918, the Redistricting Transparency Act of 2010 introduced March 23 by Representatives John Tanner (D-TN) and Michael Castle (R-DE).  H.R. 4918 seeks to infuse greater transparency, citizen involvement, and accountability into the redistricting process. 

The 2010 Census is underway and recent FEC filings and news reports make clear that political parties at all levels are preparing to take political advantage of the reapportionment and redistricting that will follow.  The two political parties are jockeying for position to maximize their chances of picking up the most seats in the redistricting process in 2011 for state legislatures and for Congress.  While this may or may not make your own seat “safer”, it is a grave disservice to citizens.  Greater transparency and citizen participation in redistricting are keys to preventing the worst partisan gerrymandering and improving our nation's democracy.  

The Redistricting Transparency Act aims to open the secretive process of drawing lines for Congressional districts to greater public scrutiny.  Under this legislation, state redistricting entities would be required to establish and maintain a website that would provide relevant information about the redistricting process.  The state entities would also be required to hold public hearings to allow increased public participation in and knowledge about the development of Congressional boundaries.

Furthermore, the Redistricting Transparency Act creates an additional level of accountability by requiring redistricting entities to publish the reasons why the final proposal was chosen, along with any dissenting opinions.

Currently, those charged with making redistricting decisions have been permitted to do so largely out of public view.  While members of the public are sometimes invited to testify before legislative committees and redistricting commissions, such hearings are often a sham.  The real redistricting decisions (such as where to place the lines on the map) are made in back rooms with almost no public involvement.  New opportunities are needed for citizens and organizations to participate effectively throughout all aspects of the process in some form.

Absent meaningful public participation in the redistricting process, partisan abuse of the process will often ensue and public distrust of elected officials will only increase.  But if those who draw the lines understand that their redistricting decisions are being watched, and watched closely, their behavior and the districts that emerge from the process are likely to be significantly more democratic in nature.

One way to change the outcome is to figuratively and literally drag the redistricting process out from behind closed doors.  Achieving that result, even on a limited scale, will not be easy.  The Redistricting Transparency Act, which has been endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition, seeks to ensure more effective participation in that process by grass roots groups and local citizens.  The legislation will provide citizens with improved tools to engage in and monitor the political process and to elect their desired representatives. Those things are good for our democracy.

With the next round of redistricting fast approaching, the Legal Center strongly urges you to co-sponsor H.R. 4918.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Meredith McGehee       

Policy Director                                                                                                                      

J. Gerald Hebert            

Executive Director

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