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Model State Redistricting Reform Criteria

The sample statutory language below indicates one vision of a potential redistricting reform proposal that would preserve the independent redistricting process, without precluding the use of multimember districts with proportional voting. The proposal below also prioritizes competitiveness and legislative diversity as goals for representation.

SECTION I: DEFINITIONS


1.    “Proportional voting system” means any voting system that ensures the election of any candidate in a multi-member district who receives a share of votes cast that is at least one vote greater than one-third of the total number of votes cast in the district.

2.    “Commission” means the independent legislative redistricting commission pursuant to this chapter.

3.    “Ideal district population” is determined by dividing the number of districts to be established into the population of the state reported in the latest federal decennial census.

4.    “Multi-member district” means any legislative district that elects more than one legislator.

5.    “Partisan public office” means: (1) an elective or appointive office in the executive or legislative branch or in an independent establishment of the federal government; (2) an elective office in the executive or legislative branch of the government of this state, or an office of the government of this state which is filled by appointment of executive or legislative authority; (3) an office of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state which is filled by an election process involving the nomination and election of candidates on a partisan basis.

6.    “Plan” means a plan for legislative reapportionment drawn up pursuant to the requirements of this chapter.

7.    “Political party office” means an elective office in the national or state organization of a party.

SECTION II: REDISTRICTING COMMISSION


1.    Not later than February 15 of each year ending in one, a redistricting commission shall be established as provided in this section. The commission’s only functions shall be those described in Section III.

2.    The commission shall be the only means of redrawing Congressional, state assembly and state Senate district lines.

3.    The commission shall only be convened in a year not ending in 1 subject to a court order.

4.    The commission shall be convened pursuant only to either Sec. IV or Sec. V of this article.

SECTION III: DUTIES OF COMMISSION

1.    The commission shall develop a plan for the apportionment of Congressional representatives and state [house/assembly] and senatorial districts based on the most recent decennial census. The commission shall forward the plan to the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate, and shall include legislation necessary to effectuate the plan.

2.    The commission shall decide whether to draw single member districts, multi-member districts with proportional voting systems, or some combination thereof.

3.    If the commission cannot decide on whether to draw single member districts, multi-member districts with proportional voting systems, or some combination thereof, it is empowered to empanel and Citizens’ Assembly to study the issue and make a recommendation to the commission.

SECTION IV: LEGISLATIVE SERVICES BUREAU (“IOWA TYPE”) REDISTRICTING


1.    As soon as possible after January 1 of each year ending in one, the legislative service bureau shall obtain from the United States bureau of the census the population data needed for legislative districting which the census bureau is required to provide this state under United States Pub. L. 94-171, and shall use that data to assign a population figure based upon certified federal census data to each geographic or political unit.

2.    Not later than April 1 of each year ending in one, the legislative service bureau shall deliver to the secretary of the senate and the chief clerk of the house of representatives identical bills embodying a plan of legislative and congressional districting prepared in accordance with section IV.

SECTION V: NON-PARTISAN REDISTRICTING COMMISSION

1.    The commission shall be composed of nine members and shall reflect the diversity of the state.

2.    Prior to December 31 in a year ending in zero, the Supreme Court shall establish a pool of 36 potential commission members. A person is eligible to be a member of the commission if the person:

a.    Is a retired state judge or a federal judge who has served in a federal court in this state and has retired or taken senior status;

b.    Has never held a partisan public office; and

c.    Has not changed the person's political party affiliation indicated in the person's voter registration records during the five years immediately preceding appointment.

3.    One third of the pool shall be registered members of the largest political party in the state, one third of the pool shall be registered members of the second largest political party in the state, and one third of the pool shall not be registered members of either of the two largest political parties in the state.

4.    A random drawing shall be held in the following manner to determine which members of the pool shall serve on the commission.

a.    Three members will be chosen by lot from those members of the pool who are registered members of the largest political party in the state.

b.    Three members will be chosen by lot from those members of the pool who are registered members of the second largest political party in the state.

c.    Three members will be chosen by lot from those members of the pool who are not registered members of either of the two largest political parties in the state.

5.    A person appointed to the commission under this subsection, before commencing service on the commission, shall pledge in writing that during the person's service as a member of the commission and for at least five years after the date the person's service as a member of the commission is concluded the person will not seek, accept or hold:

a.    A public office;

b.    The position of an officer of a political party; or

c.    The position of a compensated lobbyist.

6.    The terms of office of members of the commission expire upon the last filing of a redistricting plan under this section or upon discharge of the members by the Supreme Court under paragraph (a) of subsection (10) of this section.

7.    The Supreme Court shall identify qualified persons willing to serve as members of the commission. From the list of qualified persons, the court shall appoint at random four persons to serve as members of the commission. If the court appoints a panel in which more than two members are registered to vote as members of one of the two largest political parties in this state, then the court shall excuse one member of the panel by lot and randomly appoint and excuse new members until a panel is appointed consisting of two members belonging to each of the two largest political parties in this state.

8.    The four members of the commission appointed by the Supreme Court under paragraph (a) of this subsection shall identify qualified persons willing to serve as the fifth member of the commission. From the list of qualified persons, the four members shall appoint the fifth member by an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members.

SECTION VI: REDISTRICTING STANDARDS


1.    Districts shall be drawn in compliance with the United States Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §1973 et seq).

a.    The commission may create plans containing multi-member districts with a proportional voting system, single member districts, or a combination thereof. Each such district shall have a population per representative as nearly equal as practicable.

2.    To the greatest extent possible, the commission shall maximize both representativeness and, where practicable, competitiveness, though neither goal shall be superior to the other.

a.    A representative plan is one where racial groups and other communities of interest are able to elect representatives in proportion to their percentage of the voting age population.

b.    If it is impracticable to draw competitive districts in the state, the commission shall not use party registration information.

3.    The commission shall hold at least three public hearings throughout the state for receiving and considering proposed redistricting plans and public comment from any member of the Legislative Assembly or the public.

4.    In no circumstance shall the commission know or take into account the address of any individual, including an officeholder.

5.    Information concerning party registration and historical election returns shall only be used once a plan has been drawn, and shall only be used to test the plan for compliance with the stated goals of this article.

6.    Each district shall be as contiguous as compact as practicable. With respect to compactness, to the extent practicable a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant.

a.    Respect for contiguous and compact districts shall be secondary to the goals of representativness and competitiveness.

7.    District boundaries shall conform to the existing geographic boundaries of a county, city, or city and county, and shall preserve identifiable communities of interest to the greatest extent possible. A redistricting plan shall provide for the most whole counties and the fewest county fragments possible, and the most whole cities and fewest city fragments possible. For the purposes of this section, communities of interest are defined by similarities in social, cultural, ethnic, and economic interest, school districts, and other formal relationships between municipalities.

SECTION VII: SUBMISSION OF PLAN TO LEGISLATURE

1.    The commission shall forward the plan to the legislature before April 1 of each year ending in one. The House of Representatives and the Senate shall vote on the plan expeditiously, but not less than 7 days after the plan is received and made available to the members of both houses. The plan shall be voted on using a procedure allowing no amendments, other than those of a purely corrective nature.

2.    If the plan fails to be approved by a constitutional majority in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, the clerk of the House of Representatives or the Senate, as the case may be, shall at once transmit to the commission reasons why the plan was not approved. The commission shall then prepare a second plan in accordance with Section IV, and taking into account the reasons cited by the House of Representatives or senate for its failure to approve the plan insofar as it is possible to do so within the requirements of Section IV. The second plan shall be delivered to the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate not later than May 1 of the year ending in one, or 21 days after the date of the vote by which the house of representatives or the senate fails to approve the plan submitted under paragraph I, whichever date is later. It is the intent of this chapter that, if a second plan is necessary, it shall be brought to a vote not less than 7 days after the plan is made available to the members of the general court, in the same manner as prescribed for the plan under paragraph I.

SECTION VIII: JUDICIAL REVIEW

1.    Any elector may bring an action directly to the [highest court in the state] alleging that a law establishing or changing boundaries of any Senate, [Assembly/House], or congressional district does not comply with the requirements of this article. An action filed with the Supreme Court pursuant to this section must be filed within 30 days of the enactment of the challenged law. The Supreme Court shall render a decision within 60 days after the filing of a petition and the Court's failure to do so shall constitute a denial of the petition. If the Supreme Court finds a redistricting plan to be in violation of this article, it shall order that a new plan be adopted pursuant to this article.

SECTION IX: SEVERABILITY

1.    If any section, part, clause, or phrase of this article is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional, the remainder shall not be affected, but shall remain in full force and effect.