H.R. 1—the omnibus electoral reform bill recently unveiled in the House—has received surprisingly little attention on this blog. Sure, it’s not going to be passed by the Senate or signed by President Trump. But it probably is going to be passed by the House, thus marking the first time that proposals like automatic voter registration, redistricting commissions, and multiple-match public financing have been endorsed by a majority of that body. If Democrats win unified control of Washington in 2020, it’s also likely that some or all of H.R. 1 will become law. If that happens, it would be a development of earthshaking significance, at least as important as the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 or the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1974.
In this post, then, I want to summarize H.R. 1’s section on redistricting commissions and suggest some revisions to it. Part 2 of Title II of H.R. 1 would require states to use independent commissions to design their congressional plans. Each commission would have fifteen members—five Democrats, five Republicans, and five Independents—all chosen randomly from a pool of qualified applicants. Each commission would draw its map based on the following criteria: (1) population equality, (2) compliance with the Voting Rights Act, (3) compliance with additional racial requirements (no retrogression in, or dilution of, minorities’ electoral influence, including in coalition with other voters), (4) respect for political subdivisions and communities of interest, and (5) no undue advantage for any party. And a plan would need majority support to be enacted, including the backing of at least one Democrat, one Republican, and one Independent.
Read more at Election Law Blog