Strategy 1 Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation

Independent Redistricting Commissions

Strategy 1
Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation

Recommendation 1.4

Support adoption, through state legislation, of independent citizen-redistricting commissions in all fifty states. Complete nationwide adoption, through federal legislation, that requires fair congressional districts to be determined by state-established independent citizen-redistricting commissions; allows these commissions to meet criteria with non-winner-take-all models; and provides federal funding for these state processes, with the goal of establishing national consistency in procedures.

Read in the Report

The Problem

In most states, the party in control of the legislature has the power to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Lawmakers are incentivized to draw districts that benefit their party by concentrating the opposing party’s voters in one district or diluting them among multiple districts. These practices make democracy less representative and reduce some voters’ say in election outcomes. 

Although gerrymandering has existed for more than two centuries and is an activity in which both parties partake, it has become more commonplace and more precise in recent decades thanks to the advent of new scientific and mathematical tools.

Gerrymandering, explained
Gerrymandering, explained
Adapted from The Washington Post
“The elections themselves in many ways are a foregone conclusion because of the way the districts have been drawn up.”
—Farmville, VA
“Gerrymandering has taken away people’s voices. In the state of Ohio, people’s voices are clearly not being represented. It’s so crazily gerrymandered that even though the voter turnout is not that far apart, we have veto-proof majorities of Republicans in both houses.”
—Akron, Ohio

Examples

Consider the cases of Ohio and Maryland.

Ohio has egregiously gerrymandered districts. In the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans won the statewide popular vote by only 5 percent (52 to 47 percent), but nonetheless held on to twelve of the state’s sixteen congressional seats.

Republicans drew the map in 2011 and, in 2019, a federal court ruled the map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The Supreme Court reversed this decision, and the map will be used for the 2020 election.

Maryland, too, has a gerrymandered congressional map. In the 2016 election, Republicans received 36% of votes for congressional races statewide, but won just one of eight House seats.

The Solution

Independent citizen-redistricting commissions would remove partisanship from the drawing of legislative districts. Politicians should not be able to choose their voters, and House and legislative districts should not be designed to disempower specific voters.

Independent commissions are comprised of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans—often with independent chairpersons—charged with drawing district lines as fairly as possible. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of independent redistricting commissions.

Champion

FairVote and Campaign Legal Center and the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and Unite America and Faithful Democracy are committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all.

Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to reduce the influence of money in politics and to support unrestricted access to voting. CLC supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project bridges math, law, and data science to promote fairness in redistricting. Its interdisciplinary team gives activists and legislators the tools they need to detect gerrymandering offenses and craft bulletproof, bipartisan reform for eliminating gerrymandering at a state-by-state level.

Unite America is a movement of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to put voters first by fostering a more representative and functional government. Unite America invests in campaigns to enact reforms and elect candidates so that the right leaders have the right incentives to solve our country's greatest problems.

Faithful Democracy is a multi-faith coalition of faith-based organizations and congregations who share the moral imperative of fixing our democratic systems. While our partners represent a diversity of beliefs and traditions, we unite around the common goal of creating a healthier, thriving democracy. 

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 1.4 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2024

  • Legislation or ballot measures introduced in all states that don’t already have independent redistricting commissions
  • Federal legislation introduced in Congress with bipartisan sponsorship

2026

  • All 50 states have adopted independent citizen redistricting commissions
  • Federal legislation passed and signed into law