H.R. 3863, the Fair Representation Act (FRA), was recently reintroduced to the House of Representatives. The bill lays out a system of proportional ranked choice voting (RCV) on a national level. It also requires state-established independent commissions to perform Congressional redistricting, or if no commission is established then a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will draw the lines instead. One of the key benefits of this bill is its negation of weaponized gerrymandering within each state.
Currently, when districts are drawn by partisan state politicians, methods of packing and cracking either consolidate or break up communities of specific demographics or political leanings. In this way, partisan redistricting efforts contain or break up these groups’ power in an effort to disenfranchise them and influence future election results in favor of the side drawing the lines.
Under the FRA, each district will have multiple representatives who will be decided proportionally to the votes cast. For example, if a district has three members and its population is one third Republicans and two thirds Democrats, rather than the Democrats receiving every seat because they are the majority, they would win two seats and the Republicans would win one. With fewer districts in each state, there is already less potential for harmful gerrymandering since there are fewer lines drawn. In addition, because nearly everybody within the district gets a say in their representation, the impact of gerrymandering significantly decreases; voters are not disenfranchised when they belong to a district in which they are the minority.
The FRA also positively impacts the process of redistricting itself, as partisan politicians will no longer have the power to draw lines and gerrymander their states in favor of a specific demographic or political party. Instead, switching to independent redistricting commissions will ensure that party politics is not at the heart of redistricting efforts, so the districts will be drawn fairly and with nonpartisan intent.
Our single-winner system of representation and subsequent gerrymandering raises the following questions-- How can we establish districts to best represent the people within them, without disenfranchising minority voters? How can we eliminate partisan, weaponized gerrymandering in favor of nonpartisan redistricting? Can we achieve a representative system in which every vote counts and no vote is worthless due to partisan gerrymandering? The FRA may hold the solution.