The Brennan Center for Justice has published a guide and model legislative bill to help states design citizen-led redistricting commissions just ahead of the next round of map-drawing.
Four states already have independent commissions up and running.
“In 2021, all 50 states will redraw legislative and congressional maps for the next decade, making 2020 the last chance to put fair redistricting processes in place around the country before maps are redrawn,” states a blog post written by Yurij Rudensky and Annie Lo — the authors of the model language.
“The last round of redistricting saw unprecedented gerrymanders, often targeting communities of color. The good news is that Americans across the political spectrum support independent redistricting systems that promote equitable representation. A well-designed commission can do just that.”
A record number of states already have passed redistricting reform, including several that adopted recommendations from the Brennan Center guide.
In 2018, voters in Colorado and Michigan approved ballot proposals to create independent commissions — in each case with strong bipartisan support. And other states that opted for reform that didn’t include establishing fully independent commissions, such as clear map-drawing rules, public transparency provisions, or an alternative form of commission, nonetheless incorporated many components of best practices, according to the post.
“The year 2020 may prove to be the biggest one yet for fair maps,” it states. “Citizen advocates in Arkansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon have already started the ballot initiative process to set up independent redistricting commissions. And legislatures in states including Virginia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania are expected to take up commission-based proposals as soon as January 2020.”
North Carolina is not one of those states. There were half a dozen redistricting reform bills filed in this year’s legislative session, but Republican lawmakers stalled hearings until the last minute and then didn’t advance any of the measures.
North Carolina lawmakers, though, were forced to draw a new state electoral map and chose to draw a new congressional map after a court took them to task for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Democrats and fair voting advocates have been calling for citizen-led redistricting commissions for years.
The Brennan Center’s annotated guide and model bill for designing independent commissions makes it easy for states to safeguard against abuse. They lay out the “nuts and bolts” of crafting strong protections against racial discrimination and partisan manipulation and provide sample language that can be adjusted to fit state-specific needs.
“The clock is ticking, but there’s still time to set up the next redistricting cycle to succeed, to make districts more responsive to the will of voters, and to safeguard against the abuses of the past,” the post states.
See the guidelines and model bill below.