Recommendation: Foster Meaningful Electoral Reform by Incentivizing Nonpartisan Citizen Redistricting Commissions
Our electoral process is in need of major reform of many kinds—including campaign finance reform. Given our current political gridlock, we’d like to draw your attention to a kind of reform that is not already the subject of a partisan divide, one we hope the administration will act to foster and support—incentivizing nonpartisan citizen redistricting commissions.
The current process of drawing congressional and other districts as administered by the states is outdated, politically distorted, and fails to accurately represent the demographics of the United States of America.
In the 2012 election for example, a greater number of votes went to Democratic congressional candidates than to Republican candidates, and yet Republicans hold a sizeable majority in the House of Representatives. This is a stark numerical expression of the inadequacy of the existing districting process.
The districting system was conceived to fairly represent the people of this nation and it does not. As the states are responsible for redistricting, it falls to the administration to incentivize states to address this imbalance.
Fortunately there are models and legislation already in place that testify to the feasibility and success of redistricting. One of the stated goals of Help America Vote Act (Pub.L. 107-252), or HAVA Federal program is to establish minimum election administration standards. Demographically accurate districting falls within the perimeters of this goal. Thus, HAVA provides an existing legal channel through which funding can be released by the federal government to incentivize states to implement nonpartisan redistricting boards. This can be hugely significant.
In establishing minimum election administration standards, you can draw from the model adopted by California constituents in response to an initiative put forward by former Governor Schwarzenegger. The Voters First Act was funded in part by Mayor Michael Bloomberg an active proponent of election reform. These two Republican boosters clearly establish the trans-partisan nature of this approach. The act established an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw districts based on strict, non-partisan rules. It requires support from Democrats, Republicans and independents for approval of the redistricting plans. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_pdfs/initiatives/i746_07-0077_Initiative.pdf
Though the measure was narrowly passed in 2008, it was affirmed by 71% of voters in 2012. An op-ed from the Washington Post reflects on the dramatic impact: “Last week’s election was the first conducted using the new [CA] boundaries. Some longtime incumbents (among them Democrat Howard Berman and Republican David Dreier) were displaced, and some rising constituencies were empowered; California’s new congressional delegation will include five Asian Americans, nine Latinos and 18 women…” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/harold-meyerson-gops-gerrymandered-advantages/2012/11/13/4785e4d6-2d2f-11e2-a99d-5c4203af7b7a_story.html Iowa too has successfully implemented non- partisan districting.
In establishing minimum election administration standards, you can also draw from principles included in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Electoral Reform initiative for New York State. His funding for California’s Voters First Act is an extension of this. Many of its propositions can be applied at the national level, including:
- Creating a Democracy Index to include metrics to assess the effectiveness of the election administration process, focusing on easily comprehensible performance outputs related to registration, voting and tabulation, rather than complicated policy inputs.
- Support of National Voter Registration Modernization Effort
- Support of Federal Effort to Institute Weekend Voting
Additional info on Mayor Bloomberg’s election reform can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19621252/Election-Reform-Plan.