U.S. House: Reform, Taxpayer, and Business Groups Urge Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearings on Redistricting Reform Bill

CLC Staff
Aug 21, 2009
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Today a broad range of reform, business, and taxpayer organizations urged House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX) to hold hearings on the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting (FAIR) Act (H.R. 3025). The legislation to improve the corrupted redistricting process that allows politicians to handpick the voters they will represent was introduced by Representatives John Tanner (D-TN) and Mike Castle (R-DE) last month.

 

Previous versions of the FAIR Act were introduced by Rep. Tanner in the 109thand 110th Congresses as were separate redistricting reform bills from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). None of the bills was ever granted a hearing.

The reform groups calling for hearings include the Campaign Legal Center, Committee for Economic Development, Common Cause, FairVote, iSolon, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Taxpayers Union, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.

The full letter to the Chairman and the Ranking Member follows:

August 21, 2009

The Honorable John Conyers

House Judiciary Committee

2138 Rayburn HOB

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Lamar Smith

House Judiciary Committee

2142 Rayburn HOB

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Conyers and Ranking Member Smith:

We, the undersigned groups, strongly urge you to hold hearings this fall on the issues affecting congressional redistricting reform.

Earlier this summer, a bipartisan group of Members introduced H.R. 3025, the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act. The bill seeks to fundamentally improve the congressional redistricting process by, among other things, permitting only once a decade redistricting absent a court decision striking down the districts, and by creating independent commissions in the states to conduct congressional redistricting.

As you know, the post-2000 redistricting cycle saw unprecedented efforts to use the redistricting process purely for partisan purposes. This was done through severe gerrymandering, and the creation of districts that lacked any serious level of competitiveness, as districts were carefully calibrated to protect the powerbase of incumbent officeholders and marginalize their political opponents. When necessary to maximize their political advantage, some states even resorted to re-redistricting by repeatedly shifting voters among districts in order to weaken the minority political party and shore up the majority's political base. The effect of all this was a clear undermining of democracy and voter confidence in the integrity of our political process. In short, the redistricting process became an effective tool for making a highly partisan power grab.

House action is needed to ensure that competitiveness, accountability and fair representation remain healthy parts of our democratic process, and to keep the overly partisan and unchecked redistricting process from spinning out of control. Our nation will be irretrievably weakened if we continue with a system that undermines our representative democracy by allowing elected officials to choose their constituents, rather than a system where voters choose their elected officials.

It is time for the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings as a means of starting the critical conversation inside and outside of Congress on potential solutions to fixing the broken redistricting process. Although some of our individual organizations may not necessarily agree with all of H.R. 3025's provisions, we do agree that the legislation is a good starting point for this important conversation. Accordingly, we urge you to schedule hearings on redistricting reform.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter that is so critically important to the future of democracy in the United States.

Sincerely,

Campaign Legal Center

Committee for Economic Development

Common Cause

FairVote

iSolon

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

National Taxpayers Union

Public Citizen

U.S. PIRG

Cc: Full Judiciary Committee

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