Federal Bill Draws Needed Attention to Redistricting Reform

June 24, 2009

For Immediate Release

Susan Lehman, 212-998-6318
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289
Justin Levitt, 323- 284-8302


Today, Congressmen John Tanner (D-TN), Mike Castle (R-DE), and Allen
Boyd (D-FL) proposed federal legislation that would substantially change
the way congressional districts are drawn. The Brennan Center for Justice
at NYU School of Law, a national leader in the effort to draw fair districts,
welcomed the return of the issue to national prominence. 

"Every ten years, with few exceptions,
incumbents carve the voters of their state into districts for maximum
advantage; and as we saw a few years ago in Texas, when they don't
like the results, they can just do it again," said Justin Levitt,
Counsel at the Brennan Center and author of A
Citizen's Guide to Redistricting
a user-friendly primer on the topic.   

"Communities and neighborhoods are
split, competing candidates are drawn out of contention, groups of citizens
are ‘cracked' or ‘packed' to manipulate their voting power. 
We like to think that voters choose their politicians-but in the redistricting
process, politicians choose their voters," stated Levitt. 

Immediately after the upcoming federal
Census, states will start drawing district lines for members of Congress
and state and local legislatures.  According to the Citizen's
, 44 of the 50 states leave congressional redistricting in
the hands of the state legislature.  Existing federal laws and
the laws in most states put few limits on that process.   

There has been recent momentum for
change, including a California initiative that was passed in 2008, and
several state bills and initiatives now in circulation, in states as
politically diverse as Florida, Ohio, New York, and Utah.  Today's
federal bill, with bipartisan co-sponsors, puts the issue back on a
national stage in the few months remaining before the Census begins. 

"Redistricting reform is essential
to keeping our government accountable," urged Susan Liss, Director
of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program.  "The American people
deserve a process conducted with meaningful independence and diversity,
under sensible guidelines and with ample transparency.  We must
fight to ensure that the ground rules for choosing our public servants
actually reflect the public interest." 

The Brennan Center has conducted extensive
studies of redistricting practices and procedures, and provides legal
and policy expertise concerning redistricting to advocates and officials
around the country. The Center
has also regularly filed friend-of-the-court briefs in major cases addressing
the use of redistricting for undue partisan gain or at the expense of
minority voters.  A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting
is the Brennan Center's most recent publication confronting redistricting
in the public interest.  

For more information or to set up
an interview with Justin Levitt, please contact Susan Lehman at 212-998-6318
or susan.lehman@nyu.edu or Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289
or jeanine.plant-chirlin@nyu.edu. You can visit the Brennan Center website here