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Government Reform: Congressional Districts


Another debate in Congress is about how the districts for the House of Representatives of the US Congress are designed. As you may know, every 10 years, with the new US Census, these districts are redesigned by state governments to adjust for population shifts. Usually this is done by state legislatures.

Some Members of Congress are concerned that state legislatures, which are often dominated by one party or the other, try to design districts that favor their party. When legislatures do this, it is called gerrymandering.

There is a bill that sets federal regulations for redistricting that proponents say will reduce gerrymandering. Opponents say that the federal government should not step in and that it should be left to the states.

In Congress, there is a proposal to have the shape of Congressional districts set by a commission of citizens within each state. Such citizen commissions are already being used in a few states.

The proposal specifies that the commission of citizens would:
• be committed to designing districts in a way that is geographically natural and compact without creating a favorable distribution for either party
• be one third Republicans, one third Democrats, and one third independents,
• reflect the balance of the state according to gender, race, ethnicity and the geographic areas of the state.

Decisions on the shape of districts would be made by a majority of the commission members that includes at least one member from both parties and an independent.