Legislative Efforts to Reform Redistricting

Most current efforts to reform congressional redistricting are taking place in the states. But at least some members of Congress also are proposing federal reforms. Here’s a rundown of the redistricting reform bills that have been filed in Congress as of July 14, 2017.

September 6, 2017

While states are responsible for drawing congressional districts every ten years, Congress has the power under the Constitution’s Elections Clause (Art. I, sec. 4) to set rules governing how districts are drawn. It’s used this power in the past, for example, to mandate that states use single-member districts.

Most current efforts to reform congressional redistricting are taking place in the states.  But at least some members of Congress also are proposing federal reforms. Here’s a rundown of the redistricting reform bills that have been filed in Congress as of September 6, 2017.

For a summary of redistricting reform bills filed in state legislatures, please visit our State Redistricting Reform Tracker.

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H.R. 151: Requiring states that enact a mid-decade congressional redistricting plan to obtain a declaratory judgment that the plan does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color, or, alternatively, secure preclearance of the plan from the Department of Justice, pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

H.R. 711/H.R. 712: Prohibits states from conducting more than one congressional redistricting after a decennial census; requires states to use a commission to draw congressional districts; requires such commissions to hold their meetings in public and maintain a website with publicly accessible data and mapping tools; establishes criteria for states to follow when drawing districts; prohibits the use of voting histories or political party affiliations except when necessary to comply with the VRA.

H.R. 713: Requires states’ redistricting entities to follow certain transparency-enhancing procedures when drawing congressional maps; requires redistricting entities to maintain websites to display preliminary and final maps, census data, and public hearing notices; mandates opportunities for public input—both in-person and online—before and after maps are approved.

H.R. 1102: Requires states to use a twelve-member independent commission appointed by a nonpartisan agency through a randomized selection process to draw congressional districts; establishes criteria for drawing new maps; bars the commission from considering political party affiliations or voting histories when drawing new districts; requires commissions to hold at least three public hearings before and after developing and publishing preliminary maps.

H.R. 2981: Requires all candidates for congressional office to run in an open primary; requires election day to be treated as a legal public holiday; requires each state to use an independent commission to draw congressional boundaries; prohibits commission from using partisan or political considerations in developing a plan. 

H.R. 3057: Requires each state to use a ranked choice voting system for congressional primary, special, and runoff elections; restricts redistricting to every ten years unless otherwise court-ordered or required by law; requires states with six or more representatives to use multi-member districts; requires states with five or fewer representatives to elect all its representatives at-large; requires a twelve-member independent commission, appointed by a nonpartisan agency, to draw congressional boundaries;  establishes redistricting criteria, such as ensuring districts reflect the diversity of political opinion in the state; requires the commission to hold at least three public hearings before and after a adopting a preliminary plan and maintain a public website; authorizes the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to develop congressional plans if the commission selection process fails or if the commission fails to adopt plans.

H. Res. 283: Expresses the sense of the U.S. House of Representatives that congressional redistricting should be reformed to remove political gerrymandering. 

H. Res. 343:  An omnibus resolution expressing, among other things, the sense of the House of Representatives that congressional redistricting should be reformed to remove political gerrymandering; recommends the establishment of a federal reapportionment system; recommends redistricting criteria, including prohibiting districts that favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.

H. Res. 364: Resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that congressional redistricting should be reformed to remove political gerrymandering; recommends a federal apportionment system and redistricting criteria, including a prohibition on districts that favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.

S.1419: Amends the Voting Rights Act to revise the criteria for determining when states and political subdivisions are subject to federal preclearance, which includes, changes to district boundaries that reduces by 3 or more percentage points the proportion of a jurisdiction’s voting-age population comprised of members of a single racial group or language minority group in an area where two or more racial or language minority group represents 20 percent or more of the voting-age population, and revising boundaries of a jurisdiction where any racial group or minority experiences a population increase over the preceding decade; requires public notice of changes in the constituency or boundaries of an electoral district no later than 10 days after the change occurs in a convenient and accessible format and on the Internet.