What Can Be Done About Gerrymandering

After partisan gerrymandering was given a green light by the US Supreme Court in June, our hopes for federal corrective action dimmed.  But there’s much to be done:

In the courts: Key players like the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the Campaign Legal Center are working on lawsuits in where the state constitutions or legislation give leverage against gerrymandering.  They will also be challenging states where racial gerrymandering is masquerading as “political.” All these groups deserve our financial support.

With State Ballot Initiatives: 26 states allow ballot initiatives that establish independent, non-partisan commissions for redistricting.  These need to be state level initiatives, but the same non-partisan groups  (Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the Campaign Legal Center) offer support, legal advice, and how-to guides. After fair vote coalitions mounted extensive grass-roots campaigns, five states passed such initiatives in 2018.

In State Electoral Campaigns: State legislatures and governors are the key actors in drawing electoral districts, as the GOP realized in launching their infamous REDMAP strategy in 2010.  Democrats aren’t asleep this time, and their counter-effort is led by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), headed by Eric Holder and supported by Obama. Obama’s Organizing for Action group has joined NDRC to create the All on the Line Campaign, whose volunteers will bird-dog the redistricting process in each state.  The NDRC coordinates with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to elect Democrats who have pledged to support fair electoral maps. The NDRC record: 61% wins in 230 state races targeted in 2018.  Joining these groups is Emily’s List, which is committing $20 million to 500 state legislative races.

In Federal Election Campaigns.  With passage of HR-1 in the House, congressional Democrats are committed to supporting non-partisan redistricting, and the NDRC is asking all Democratic candidates from president down to sign a “Fair Districts Pledge.” Winning the Senate and Presidency would allow HR-1 to become law and at some point would lead to a different Supreme Court.

With Long-Range Reforms: There are strong arguments for enlarging congressional districts and using ranked-choice voting to select 3-5 House seats each, giving representation to every voter instead of  the current winner-take-all system.  This idea, backed by FairVote and others, has been put into a proposed Fair Representation Act initiated by Virginia Democrat Don Beyer. After 2020 maybe?

With Grass-roots Activism: Activists around the country that pushed for HR-1 are partnering with all the groups listed here; check out our Indivisible resources on fighting gerrymandering.

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