Voices & Choices

Want to solve gerrymandering? Look no further than the Fair Representation Act

Want to solve gerrymandering? Look no further than the Fair Representation Act

According to Benjamin Franklin, nothing, except death and taxes, are certain. 

But for far too long, there has been a third certainty in American political life: gerrymandering. For decades, this insidious force—employed by both major parties—has wreaked havoc on American politics, stifling the voices of citizens and contributing to disillusionment with our current political system. 

Through the drawing of districts with the intention of diluting the voting power of a specific bloc of voters, gerrymandering locks millions of voters nationwide in districts where the winner is essentially pre-determined. Additionally, no nation or state that truly considers itself a representative democracy should allow a party that accrues a minority of votes to win the overall election—yet this happens constantly on the state and federal level. That is why we need reform.

For years, many activists pinned their hopes on the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping that a majority of justices would rule partisan-drawn districts unconstitutional. That proved futile, as a June Supreme Court decision dealt a blow to many activists in ruling that federal courts cannot intervene to curb this problem.

This leaves gerrymandering reform up to Congress—and that is where the Fair Representation Act comes in.

Today, Rep. Don Beyer (VA-8) introduced the Fair Representation Act (H.R. 4000) on the House floor. The bill, which Rep. Beyer first unveiled in 2017, would combat gerrymandering, spur meaningful elections, mitigate political polarization, ensure accurate representation, spark improved diversity, and, most importantly, grant voters a real voice and choice in congressional elections. 

After all, it is no secret that many voters are disillusioned with Congress. Fierce gridlock paralyzes the body. Representatives cater to their base, posturing to score political points. A winner-take-all system punishes bipartisanship and bold ideas. Through all of this, voters suffer. 

Why has this atrophying of our legislative branch occurred? Because too many elections are uncompetitive. Why are so many elections uncompetitive? Single-member winner-takes-all districts combined with gerrymandering. Our problem goes beyond redistricting: We need to fix districting itself.

The root of the gerrymandering problem are these single-member districts. As long as we have them, the voices of large blocs of voters will continue to be marginalized—even if the districts are drawn by well-intentioned, non-partisan commissions. 

By mandating multi-member districts where representatives are elected via ranked choice voting (RCV), the FRA makes gerrymandering virtually impossible. This ensures that women, people of color, Republicans in urban areas, Democrats in rural areas, moderates, and third-party supporters have a voice—empowering all citizens and energizing our political system. 

The Fair Representation Act would infuse new life into Congress, increasing the percentage of Americans who experience a competitive House election from under 15 percent in 2018 to over 55 percent. It would reinvigorate American democracy, forcing House representatives to campaign to all constituencies and to forge new alliances to meet the needs of their voters. 

Citizens of our country deserve fair representation. Massachusetts Republicans haven't elected a House member in more than two decades, while Arkansas Democrats are similarly underrepresented. Minor parties are decried as "spoilers." One party can run the House even when the other earns more total votes. That’s not how our elections should work; in fair elections, those with the most votes should win the most seats--but those who lose should still have a voice. By creating larger multi-member districts and utilizing RCV, the FRA would provide a platform for all--ensuring that the voices of that Arkansas Democrat or Massachusetts Republican will finally be heard in Congress.

Our government is supposed to be by the people and for the people. When it is not working for the people—and not representative of the people—it is time for change. That is why the Fair Representation Act is so important.

 



 

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