Posted on February 01, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2017
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Legislation Looks to Break Stalemate on Redistricting Reform
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND -- Delegate Al Carr of the Maryland House of Delegates on January 30th introduced HB 622, the Potomac Compact for Fair Representation. Delegate Carr’s ground-breaking legislation is aimed at breaking the national stalemate on reform of congressional redistricting through an innovative interstate compact first pioneered last year by Congressman Jamie Raskin. Delegate Carr was joined by six co-sponsors: Delegates Barnes, Fennell, Hixson, Luedtke, Moon, and Wilkins.
The Potomac Compact for Fair Representation focuses in particular on an opportunity for two notoriously gerrymandered states -- Virginia and Maryland -- to jointly establish congressional election plans that are fair and representative in both states. It is grounded in the constitutionally established power of states to enter into binding interstate compacts. HB 622 would enable Maryland to enter into a compact in which Virginia and other participating states would mutually agree to form an independent redistricting commission that could think outside the traditional gerrymandering box.
"We are creating an opportunity for Maryland and Virginia to lead the nation by ending an undemocratic process and giving power to the people,” stated Delegate Carr.
The commission would be encouraged to consider nonpartisan plans to create larger congressional districts where multiple candidates would be elected, like those used to elect the Maryland House of Delegates. If the commission adopts such multi-winner districts, it would then establish an election method that produces fair and proportional outcomes, such as ranked choice voting that allows like-minded voters to elect candidates in proportion to their voting strength.
Maryland and Virginia are natural partners for initiating the compact. The two states mirror each other in their partisan configuration. Both the Democratic and Republican governors in Virginia and Maryland, respectively, confront legislatures with a significant partisan advantage for the other major party. In addition, the redistricting process in Virginia and Maryland has resulted in legal challenges and national attention for the unfair and often odd-looking districts. Currently, there is no sponsor in the Virginia legislature, but advocates hope that changes in the coming year.
The Potomac Compact was first introduced in the 2016 legislative session by former Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin. “The compact is an excellent model that could be joined by other states to give voters a stronger voice on Election Day and fair representation,” said FairVote’s Rob Richie. “States can be laboratories of democracy to prevent political corruption and create fair representation by addressing winner-take-all systems that don’t give all voters a voice.”
FairVote is a longtime proponent of fair representation methods like ranked choice voting. When evaluated by academics and political strategists, ranked choice voting has been rated as likely to have the single most powerful positive impact on elections, such as at the April 2015 National Democracy Slam at the Washington College of Law and in an August 2015 report based on ratings by 14 leading political scientists and law professors.
To learn more about FairVote’s fair representation plan for Congress, read FairVote’s Monopoly Politics report, which highlights the winner-take-all problem facing U.S. House elections, and explore resources associated with the proposed Fair Representation Act.