Most legislative districts are drawn in back room deals by the politicians who benefit from the way those districts are drawn and the public has little or no input or impact on the decision making process.
In 2014 there were 69 House races that were uncontested – and there were many more incumbents who faced only token opposition.
(Click here to read more about unopposed members in 'The Economist'.)
Non-competitive, gerrymandered districts are having an extremely negative effect on the legislative process. This is an incredibly serious problem and redistricting reform is badly needed.
Allowing politicians to draw their own districts doesn’t pass the smell test. Americans know this. And yet, a partisan, non-competitive redistricting system controlled by Democrats and Republicans has been allowed to continue because career politicians fight any changes.
Overwhelmingly non-competitive legislative districts mean politicians only have to appeal to the ideological extremes of their own party in order to win a primary election and then are able to ignore centrist voters and those of other parties because they are assured of reelection. As a result, centrists are disappearing from office and Congress grows ever more polarized and dysfunctional.
California has been a leader in redistricting reform. Through the ballot initiative process, California created a citizen’s commission composed of one-third Democrats, one-third Republicans and one-third Independents which drew the state’s legislative districts following the 2010 census using the guidelines of compactness, equal representation and competitiveness.
(Click here to visit California's redistricting Web site.
The next redistricting process will not take place until after the 2020 census which means six years remain to launch efforts at redistricting reform in other states which have the initiative petition process.
If you live in a state which has the initiative petition process, please think about getting involved in an effort to pass redistricting reform. We will join with other groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters who are fighting to make redistricting fair and truly democratic.
"Allowing politicians to draw their own districts doesn't pass the smell test."
Help Us Change the System
The Republican-controlled legislature in Arizona has brought suit against the state’s independent redistricting commission which was created by voters through a 2000 ballot initiative. A federal district court ruled in favor of the commission but the legislature appealed the decision to the Supreme Court which heard the case on March 2, 2015.
(Read all of the briefs about the case here.)
If the court strikes down an independent congressional redistricting plan ratified by Arizona voters, the ramifications will be disastrous for election reform—and our democracy.
In its request for a hearing, the Arizona State Legislature argued the ballot initiative and independent commission involved a “radical effort to ‘de-politicize’ redistricting.”
Politicians obviously don’t want to give up their control over the redistricting process and will fight any changes.
Independent citizens have got to get involved and fight for change. More competitive congressional districts could help make a difference in breaking the logjam in Congress.
"Politicians only have to appeal to the ideological extremes not the center to win office which makes government more polarized and dysfunctional."
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