Reps. Lowenthal and Rohrabacher Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Protect Independent Redistricting And The Will Of Voters In Six States From Possible SCOTUS Ruling

May 22, 2015

Congressman Alan Lowenthal and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on May 21 introduced bipartisan legislation to preemptively protect the will of voters across the country from a possible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that could lead to the elimination of independent redistricting in six states and reinstall partisan gerrymandering into the drawing of Congressional districts in these states.

The bipartisan bill, H.R. 2501, the Citizens' Districts Preservation Act, protects the decision of voters in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey, and Washington to keep politics out of redistricting, and keeps the current congressional districts that were drawn by independent redistricting commissions in place until after the next census occurs in 2020.

"When the voters choose a commission to draw their state's congressional districts, their decision should be respected," Congressman Rohrabacher said. "Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power to ensure that the will of the people be carried out, and adopting the Citizens' Districts Preservation Act will accomplish just that."

"Our bipartisan bill preserves the will of our constituents who chose to end gerrymandering and take politics out of redistricting," Congressman Lowenthal said. "Instead of putting redistricting back into the hands of special interests, we want to keep the lines drawn by community interests."

H.R.2501 was introduced in anticipation of an expected June ruling by the Supreme Court in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a case challenging Arizona's non-partisan, citizen-run redistricting commission. Based on indications from the Justices during oral arguments on the case in March, the court could rule to take away the power of Arizona's redistricting commission, which was established by a vote of the people of Arizona, to draw congressional districts and return this authority to the state legislature.

In addition to Arizona's citizen-led commission, the Citizens Redistricting Commission in California, which was given the authority to draw congressional districts by more than 60 percent of California voters in 2010, would likely also have their congressional district-drawing powers taken away. Other independent redistricting commissions in Washington, New Jersey, Hawaii, Idaho, and potentially other states could be similarly affected by the Supreme Court decision. Furthermore, states looking to create new non-partisan redistricting models for their congressional districts could be preemptively stymied in their efforts.

H.R. 2501, which currently has 16 bi-partisan cosponsors, draws on the ability of Congress, under Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, to uphold commission-drawn districts for Arizona, California, and other states.

"Allowing politicians to draw their own legislative districts is like allowing a fox to guard the henhouse," National Redistricting Director for Common Cause Kathay Feng said. "The Citizens' Districts Preservation Act will ensure that voters' voices are heard by keeping in place congressional districts drawn through independent redistricting commissions like the successful one in California."

In January, Congressman Rohrabacher and Congressman Lowenthal filed a bipartisan amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Arizona Redistricting Commission. The brief was co-signed by 10 other Congressional Democrats and nine Congressional Republicans representing districts across the nation from California to New York and from Washington to Florida.