Answering Your Questions

On February 4th, I participated–via Zoom– in a panel discussion on gerrymandering sponsored by Indiana’s League of Women Voters. The program concluded with several questions still pending, and the moderator subsequently sent me the ones we hadn’t had time to address.

There were some I couldn’t answer: what is meant by a “paper trail,” for example. I rather imagine it varies depending upon the technology being employed, but I have no helpful information. And I have no data on the number of voters who found themselves moved to  new legislative districts during the last round of redistricting.

Some of the “questions” were really comments: one person bemoaned the generational effects of safe seats–the reluctance of “long in the tooth” politicians to address issues (marijuana reform, for example) that are relevant to younger voters, and another was concerned with the dominance of rural representation and the lack of genuine home rule in Indiana. A third emphasized the importance of the courts. I agree with all of them.

As for the questions: I have previously explained why the Fairness Doctrine would not be applicable to most sources of today’s disinformation. The study that found Indiana to be the fifth most gerrymandered state was conducted by scholars at the University of Chicago.  Cases challenging the constitutionality of gerrymandering have indeed been filed–and have lost at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Someone asked what incentive might appeal to both parties to end the practice, and someone else wondered how HR 1 proposed to provide that incentive, especially since states like Indiana have constitutional provisions requiring legislative line-drawing. To answer that question, I am turning the remainder of this post over to the Brennan Center.

The biggest change under H.R. 1 would be that all states would be required to use independent citizen commissions to draw congressional districts. These 15-member commissions would include five Democrats, five Republicans, and five Independents or members of smaller parties, ensuring that all interests are represented equally when lines are drawn. Strong conflict of interest rules would prevent lobbyists, staffers, and political operatives from serving on the commission, and screening processes would ensure that qualified commissioners are selected.

The process for approving a map also would be transformed. In contrast to the current practice in most states, maps could no longer be approved along party lines. Instead, for a map to become law, it would need to win support from Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and members of third parties on the commission

Partisan gerrymandering would be expressly banned

H.R. 1 would give voters an important advantage by creating the first ban against partisan gerrymandering in federal statutory law.

This statutory ban would let voters use H.R. 1 to challenge gerrymandered maps under H.R. 1 instead of having to rely, as is the case presently, on claims brought under various parts of the Constitution. Having a statutory remedy could be an especially important tool for voters given uncertainty about how far the Supreme Court will go in allowing partisan gerrymandering claims brought under the Constitution.

Importantly, the ban could be implemented for maps drawn in 2021, even the passage of H.R. 1 does not come in time for independent commissions to be set up.

The rules for drawing maps would be made uniform across the country

H.R. 1 would create a comprehensive, uniform set of rules for mapdrawing

H.R. 1 would create a comprehensive, uniform set of rules for mapdrawing.

Currently, the only requirement in federal law for drawing congressional districts is that states must use single-member districts. Some states impose additional requirements in their own laws, but many do not. This has created an unlevel playing field and opened the door to all kinds of manipulation.

Under H.R. 1, mapdrawers are required to avoid the unnecessary division of communities, neighborhoods, and political subdivisions. Protections for communities of color also would be strengthened to ensure that the political power of those communities is not undermined by mapdrawers.

Mapdrawers also would be required to issue written reports evaluating proposed maps’ compliance with these rules before any voting on maps could commence.

As with the ban on partisan gerrymandering, these rules could be put in place for 2021 even if passage of H.R. 1 does not come in time for implementation of commissions.

HR 1 would give the public the right to review the maps, and the right to mount an expedited challenge.

Constitutional provisions giving the legislature responsibility for redistricting can be met by having the legislature adopt the maps drawn by the commission. That provision was included in previous–unsuccessful– Indiana bills that addressed gerrymandering.

HR 1 is one of the most important measures currently pending in Congress. It would go a long way toward restoring a system that encourages, rather than discourages, voting–and an even longer way toward allowing voters to choose their representatives rather than keeping the gerrymandering that currently allows representatives to choose their voters.


  1. Sorry I missed it but I am signed up for the next one! HR1 may be the one thing that ends the QOP. Also, the focus is technically no longer HR1 since it has passed the House. It’s counterpart in the Senate, SB1, must be taken up soon after business is complete for Covid relief, the impeachment trial and confirmation of Merrick Garland as AG.

  2. If HR 1 is passed; would it set permanent district lines as county and state lines are drawn, taking it out of the hands of politicians, or would it be up for grabs in 10 years?

    Predominant political parties would dominate some districts and the establishment or removal of polling places would remain up to the majority party. Also as in Georgia, closing Bureau of Motor Vehicle sites could be limited forcing people to drive 50 miles for ID cards, drivers license and vehicle registration and closing polling places. This could mean crossing district lines to vote.

    “Partisan gerrymandering would be expressly banned”

    Even with banning partisan gerrymandering, some districts would have a partisan population, this is a fact of life…so be it. Somebody just set district lines and end the politically set time frame to redistrict/ gerrymander in the future so we know where we live and who our candidates are.

  3. I too regret missing the discussion. I would and have disagreed with HR 1 and the Brennan Center only on the issue of enforcement. I would accept, for now, the Supreme Court’s position that courts are ill-suited to judge gerrymanders as the Court should avoid partisan political rulings. I would empower the House of Representatives to deny seating to potential US representatives elected from partisan gerrymandered districts. This would also clear the federal courts to expeditiously adjudicate state legislative district gerrymanders.

  4. I too support nonpartisan gerrymandering and would like us to have a discussion on how we can pressure state reps. to pass SB 1 or some legislation creating a nonpartisan system.

  5. Sheila, correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t Joe Manchin have the ultimate say in whether or not HR1/SB1 gets passed? McConnell knows this takes away Republican power to win seats so it is doomed to the filibuster unless Manchin agrees to end the filibuster in a 50-50 vote with Harris breaking the tie. If I’m Biden/Pelosi/Schumer I’m bending over backward to give Joe Manchin anything he wants for the state of West Virginia. Hell, lets move the capitol there.

  6. End the filibuster rule now! That move could, and more than likely would, come back to bite the Dems in the ass someday. But for the present, there appears to be no other way forward to pass bills such as HR 1 and the rest of Biden’s and the Dems legislative agenda (in a bi-gone era, Sinema and Manchin would have been moderate Repubs). And if the Congressional Dems and Biden can’t deliver at least some of their campaign promises and platform — most of which a majority of the American public strongly favor — there is a strong likelihood they will lose control of both the House and the Senate in the 2022 mid-term elections. Go big now or go home in 2022! No more letting the McConnell and the Repubs play “Lucy and the ball.”

    As for non-partisan Commissions to draw the congressional district boundaries. We here in Arizona have such a non-partisan Commission — put in place by a citizen ballot initiative and which the Republican super-majority Legislature despises and every year tries to enact new laws to try to take away it’s authority. Luckily, since it was put in place by a ballot initiative, the Legislature can only chip away at it around the margins.

    That being said, it is not automatically a panacea. As another post observed, in a State, like Arizona or Indiana where there are large number of registered Repubs, you still end up with a good number of solidly Red districts. The Dems here now have a 5-4 edge in seats (gaining 1 in 2018), and it’s predicted AZ will be granted a new 10th seat in the aftermath of the 2020 census (if that mess is ever straightened out and finalized). In order to get that nearly even split, the
    Commission had to come up with crazy quilt districts. But without the non-partisan commission, the Repubs would probably gerrymandered themselves into something like a 7-2 edge.

  7. Joe Hayes: I was thinking a $100K/yr government job for every laid off coal industry worker should do it!

    David F: McConnell all but already killed the filibuster when he eliminated it for confirming SCOTUS appointments. Schumer just needs to finish the job. R’s wouldn’t think twice if the roles were reversed.

    The stakes can’t be any higher to get HR1 passed and passed this year:

  8. Patrick – what a sense of humor! Let’s see – what sort of politics might a lot of coal workers have given who they have been voting for? What sort of background for thoughtful public service? Have you considered standup? SNL?

  9. During the run-up to the 2020 Presidential Election, The Trumpet said repeatedly the only way he could lose was by fraud. Once the unofficial results were tallied and Biden was the winner. The Trump Cult went into high gear, demanding recounts and verification, etc. Concurrent with these efforts law suits were filed by The Trump Cult. Many elected Reactionary Republicans went along with this fantasy even after they repeatedly lost in court.

    Thankfully, we have a recording of The Trumpet’s phone call to Brad Raffensperger, the Republican GA secretary of state, about the presidential election. The Trumpet tries to cajole, bully and intimidate Raffensperger to commit fraud.

    Another ploy was to simply not count Biden’s electoral votes in states he won. The GOP for the most part lined up behind The Trumpet in this regard.

    The Trumpet with diminishing hope that Biden’s win would be nullified then called on his Trump Cult Mob to intervene. Like his call to Raffensperger he wanted the Trump Cult Mob to intervene not with just words this time but with action.

    At this moment The Trumpet became our Julius Caesar wannabe, he crossed the Rubicon. The rule of law be damned, the mob would be The Trumpet’s Legions. January 6th now goes down as another “Day of Infamy”.

    Sadly, even after the mob’s actions many Republicans still attempted Election Nullification. Make no mistake about it these Republicans that voted to nullify Biden’s win were content to see The Trumpet as a modern day Caesar.

    The GOP Senators have a chance to cleanse themselves of The Trumpet by voting to convict him.

    HR 1 could go a long way nationally to insure free and fair elections.

  10. As I have written before and elsewhere, the long Mitch-suppressed HR-1 is the most important piece of legislation to come before the Congress since the poverty-fighting bill establishing Social Security, and assuming HR-1 passes without disabling amendment in the Senate, next on the list of the one man – one vote Baker v. Carr list is the Senate, where currently states such as Wyoming with some 700,000 voters have two senators and California with some 38 million voters have, uh, two senators. It is not only the gerrymandering by decennial politicians that should be corrected; structural gerrymandering should be corrected as well if we are to have “equal” voting rights.

    Yes, it will require a constitutional convention, a gathering feared by all since there are many well-funded factions frothing at the bit to establish their particular brand of organic law. Think pro-life, tax limitations etc. – but how else to correct the glaring inequality of relative voting rights of the citizenry, where a vote is Wyoming as expressed Senate-wise is worth more than fifty votes in California? Thus if we followed the “No taxation without representation” battle cry of our revolutionary days, proportionally stated, voting citizens in Wyoming should pay some fifty two times as much taxes as voting citizens in California – an obviously absurd result.

    Perhaps the Senate (which was fashioned by the Founders based on the House of Lords and was appointive until the 20th century) should be reconstituted to reflect a different voting world than that of 1789, and soon, since one man – fifty two votes hardly reflects “equal voting rights.”

  11. JoAnn, the constitution mandates that congressional district lines be redrawn after the census every 10 years, so this law wouldn’t change that. This bill deals with WHO draws the district lines. Under the Constitution, Congress probably has the power to decide how congressional district lines are drawn. I am not 100% sure about that.

    I’m totally in favor of changing redistricting. We have to be careful though that we’re just not moving the redrawing of districts from the legislature to another smaller, but just as political, entity. It’s not as easy to get partisan politics out of the process by creating a commission as reformers often believe it is. Politics can operate as well behind closed doors as it can out in open.

    I’m reminded of attorneys who served on the Judicial Qualifications Commission telling me about all the political wrangling that goes on when a seat on the Indiana Supreme Court comes open. The process is supposed to be just about merit, but politics very much dominates the Commission’s proceedings.. I remember one member of the Bayh administration, who is now a judge, telling me the way they would handle nominations is that they would call the Chair of the JQC up, tell them who they wanted on the Court, and that person would always make the list of three the Governor would appoint from. That’s not a merit system. Shockingly the attorney, now judge, saw nothing wrong with that process.

  12. Patrick, it was Harry Reid and the Democrats who killed off the filibuster for federal judge appointments, below SCT. Don’t you think he deserves some blame?

    I don’t get why D’s are so eager to get rid of the filibuster. Just a little over 2 years ago, we had a Republican President, Republican House and Senate, and what stopped Trump from jamming through legislation was the Dems ability to use the filibuster in the Senate. I guess the Ds believe the Rs will never be in control again. Seems like a bad bet.

  13. Instead of fretting that all politicians (“pols”) of either party will manipulate districts/judges, etc., how about electing servant leaders who put “the people”/country/truth/integrity over…(gasp) Party!

  14. Although only mentioned briefly at the end of the LWVIN’s event on Gerrymandering, a movement that we can all get behind in Indiana is Common Cause’s Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission. Julia Vaughn, their Executive Director, found grant funding and has organized an outstanding plan to create an Independent Redistricting Commission to listen to citizen’s priorities for re-districting, then outline parameters for citizen groups to create fair political district maps in Indiana. I interviewed Julia about this. You can watch the video here: Or, download the podcast, Indiana Politics with Deb Chubb, here:

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