Every ten years, each state redraws legislative district boundaries in a process called redistricting. Redistricting can lead to unfair maps that contribute to weakening voter power and representation. This year’s process is especially notable. The number of competitive Congressional districts is on the decline, and the number of safe seats for both Democrats and Republicans have increased. This could lead to one of the most polarized and least accountable Congresses ever.
As of November 22, fifteen states have finalized their maps. In these maps, 33 seats favor Democrats, 82 favor Republicans, and just 11 are highly competitive seats. As a result of the 2020 census and elections, Republicans get to redraw more seats than Democrats. Maps in North Carolina, Ohio, and Utah, for example, heavily favor Republicans. Democrats do have some advantages, such as in Illinois, which will have just one highly competitive seat if the current draft becomes law.
In Virginia and Washington, the bipartisan redistricting commissions did not meet their deadlines, resulting in their state supreme courts being in charge of the process. Georgia’s Senate passed a redistricting bill, but it has yet to be signed into law. Connecticut’s bipartisan commission, on the other hand, unanimously approved a new map. In Wisconsin, the Democratic governor vetoed the Republican-drawn redistricting map.
According to an August The Economist/YouGov poll, only 16% of U.S. adults said they thought their congressional districts would be re-drawn fairly, and 44% said they thought they would be re-drawn unfairly. Voters know that gerrymandering is a serious problem in US electoral politics.
A solution to this suppression of voter voice and lack of Congressional accountability is multi-member districts. Single-winner districts often deliver victory to candidates of the plurality group. Proportional multi-member districts select multiple officeholders who reflect the views of everyone in the district. This reduces gerrymandering because traditional strategies like packing and cracking would no longer be as effective. Multi-member districts would also better reflect the wants, needs, and interests of diverse communities. This page has more details on how they work.
The good news is that Congress has the power to act now. The Fair Representation Act (FRA) would solve these issues of partisan gerrymandering and inadequate representation through implementing proportional ranked choice voting in multi-member districts for Congressional elections.