Cohen Files Bill to Create Independent Redistricting Board

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 8, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today reintroduced the John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting (FAIR) Act to take the decennial congressional apportionment process, which often leads to partisan gerrymandering, out of the hands of politicians and give it to an independent redistricting commission. Congressman Cohen also introduced the FAIR Act in the 113th Congress.

“It’s time to take politics out of the redistricting process,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Congress is so polarized today that we’re unable to find common ground on the major issues facing our country.  Instead of solving our nation’s problems, Congress is just kicking the can down the road and waiting until the next election for answers.  I believe that if we eliminate the gerrymandering of districts we will help get more accomplished for our country.”

The FAIR Act was championed for many years by former Congressman John Tanner and was introduced in the 112th Congress by former Congressman Heath Shuler. Beginning after the 2020 census the FAIR Act would require each state to appoint an independent and transparent congressional redistricting commission. The commission would be charged with creating a redistricting plan that emphasizes geographical contiguity and compactness of districts rather than political affiliations or the impact a district’s lines may have on incumbent representatives.

The state legislature and the governor may approve or reject the commission’s plan, but may not amend it. If the governor does not sign a plan by November 1st of the year before a congressional reapportionment, the commission may then forward its plans to the state’s highest court, which may select one, but may not make any amendments.  If the state court is unable to select a plan, the federal district court would then develop and publish a final redistricting plan. The bill also prohibits a state from redistricting until after the next census unless it is under court order to do so.