“The Peril and Promise of Redistricting Reform in H.R. 1”

Very excited to have a piece up on the Harvard Law Review Blog diving into H.R. 1’s redistricting reforms. The post examines some surprising shortcomings in the bill and offers suggestions on how H.R. 1’s redistricting provisions could be strengthened to make sure it truly works #ForThePeople.

Below is a snippet from the introduction. To read the whole post, head on over to the Harvard Law Review Blog!

In 2019, House Democrats unveiled a sweeping electoral reform package, designated “H.R. 1” as a symbolic gesture of the bill’s importance. . . . Fast-forward to 2021 and H.R. 1 now stands a chance of becoming law. Unfortunately, one part of the package may be turn out to be more symbolic now than it was in 2019: redistricting reform.

H.R. 1’s redistricting reforms revolve around the creation of independent commissions [with] a decennial timeline . . . pegged to years “ending in numeral zero.”  In 2019, the effective date of the reform applied “with respect to redistricting carried out pursuant to the decennial census conducted during 2020 or any succeeding decennial census.” . . . [T]he most recently introduced version of H.R. 1 pushes off [that] effective date . . . until 2030

This puts redistricting reform in great peril.  Republicans won big in state legislatures in the 2020 elections, which means they will be drawing most congressional districts for the decade to come.  And with Rucho v. Common Cause clearing the way for even more radical partisan gerrymandering than the 2010 round, there’s a good chance that H.R. 1’s proposed independent commissions never see the light of day. . . . 

All of this is easily avoidable.  Democrats should take the redistricting criteria that the commissions are supposed to follow, see § 2413(a), move them up into Part I of Subtitle E, convert them into freestanding requirements for all congressional districts regardless of the entity doing the drawing, and clarify that those requirements are effective upon enactment.