Which one would you rather have? Voters picking their politicians or politicians picking their voters?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in all but a handful of states, politicians are choosing their voters. They do that by controlling how district maps are drawn.
Every state has two district maps: One for congressional districts, and one for state legislative districts. In most states, your state Senators and state Representatives are drawing up those maps. Your only real chance of getting even somewhat fair maps are if you have a divided government, like if the state Senate has a GOP majority and the state House has a Democratic majority. They’d have to compromise, which would make things fairer.
But… There’s only one state in the entire country where the state government is divided: Minnesota. That means in all of the remaining states, only one party is drawing the district maps.
The answer to this hyper-partisan problem? Independent redistricting commissions.
What are they?
Independent redistricting commissions are a group of people, outside of the workings of the state legislature, that are brought together to draw district maps for a state.
The way each commission gets its members, and how it works, is unique.
Which states use them?
There are currently 7 states that use redistricting commissions to draw both their congressional and state legislative districts: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, and Washington. (Another small handful of states use redistricting commissions to draw their legislative, but not congressional maps.
Are other states considering them?
Yes! Redistricting advocates are working in Oregon, Arkansas, Nevada, and North Dakota to get a redistricting measure on the ballot this fall. Voters in Virginia and Missouri already have gotten their redistricting measure on the ballot. In the most recent election in Michigan, voters passed their anti-gerrymandering ballot measure, which of course, the GOP is challenging in court.
How can I help get one in my state?
If your state doesn’t have an independent redistricting commission, chances are, there are people working in your state trying to get it on the ballot. But a good place to start is to contact your local League of Women Voters who has long advocated for fair maps and a “people-powered” approach. Reach out to them and ask if there are any efforts in your state to get such a measure on the ballot, and if so, how you can help. Find your local chapter HERE. (Once you click the link, scroll down a bit to enter your zip code.)
Thank you for taking action!
A Better Way to Draw Districts, from Brennan Center for Justice
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