Redistricting is a red-hot issue this year. Why? Because how states reset their Congressional districts as well as their state legislative boundaries in the coming months will have a critical impact on which party controls Congress and state legislatures for the rest of the decade.
Reforming the redistricting process is one of many reasons why enacting the For the People Act (H.R.1) is essential to ensuring that our elections are fair and competitive. The bill takes redistricting out of the hands of partisan state legislatures by mandating states create independent redistricting commissions to draw Congressional district boundaries.
The measure would prevent both parties from gerrymandering districts favorable to their candidates. However, the Republicans control the majority of state legislatures and, consequently, would have the most to lose with the passage of H.R.1. Right now, many of those Republican legislatures are doing whatever they can to manipulate the electoral process in order to entrench their political dominance.
The most egregious example of GOP power grabbing occurred in Georgia earlier this week. The Republican-dominated State Assembly passed a bill, which Republican Governor Brian Kemp immediately signed, that “gives state-level officials the authority to usurp the powers of county election boards” and effectively change the outcome of an election.
According to one commentator, “the Georgia law is part of a broader wave of GOP efforts, at the state and national level, to undermine the fairness of American elections. What happened in Georgia reveals the true face of the modern Republican Party: a far-right institution that threatens American democracy…”
The For the People Act is the Democrats bold advance to rescue our democracy. It has already passed in the House. Since redistricting will occur in every state this year, the Democratic-controlled Senate must act quickly to eliminate partisan overreaching, as just occurred in Georgia. If the Senate fails to pass H.R.1, the Republicans will likely retake the House of Representatives in the 2022 elections and immediately terminate President Biden’s legislative agenda.
Here in New Mexico, redistricting was a big issue in the just completed 2021 regular legislative session as well. Unlike H.R.1, the N.M. Redistricting Act, SB 304, had bipartisan support. Fortunately, the Act bars a seven-member redistricting committee from considering party registration data in crafting new boundaries. Yet, in making its final decision, the legislature is not required to adopt one of the district maps proposed by the independent committee. Though SB304 is a significant step in the right direction, regrettably, partisan considerations will likely still play a part in the Democratic-controlled legislature’s redistricting efforts.
Thus, H.R.1 is the only equitable solution to the redistricting conundrum. Until independent redistricting commissions are mandated in all 50 states, partisan gerrymandering will continue to unfairly influence our elections. We must urge our senators to support S.1, the Senate version of the For the People Act.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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