It would require states to set up independent commissioners to redraw Congressional district lines.
Washington DC (KM). A bill to reform the way Americans elect members of the House of Representatives has been introduced. The “Open Our Democracy” Act is sponsored by 6th District Congressman John Delaney (D) would end gerrymandering. “I think one of the biggest problems we have in our democracy is these gerrymandered districts, which are not only undemocratic in terms of they’re formulated, but cause a lot of very partisan people to come Congress, and I think we need less of that,” says Delaney.
The legislation would require each states to set up an independent commission to redraw Congressional districts, and have open primaries instead of the closed partisan primaries. Delaney says all people, regardless of party registration, could vote in these contests. The top two vote getters in the primary would face each other in the general election.
It would also make election day a holiday, so that more people would have time to vote.
Delaney says independent commissioners to redraw district lines has been tried in a few states. “Iowa does; California does. It’s been at the state level and we believe it can be done federally,” he says.
A former US Supreme Court Justice has said using independent commissions to draw Congressional districts is Constitutional. Justice Antonin Scalia, according to Delaney, wrote an opinion on the issue, stating that under the elections clause of the Constitution, Congress can dictate to the states how to draw the districts. “They can’t tell them what the Congressional districts are, but can dictate how to draw them,” he says.
Justice Scalia died last year.
The redrawing of the Congressional districts in Maryland, including the 6th District, by former Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, has been described as gerrymandering. Since the new lines went into effect in 2012, Delaney has won that seat in Congress three times in a row.. “Maryland obviously is guilty of this as well as other states, which is why I think we need a national solution,” says Delaney.
Delaney has introduced this bill during the 113th and 114th Congress. “The problem with getting a bill like this passed is we’re trying to end this system which put a lot of people in the Congress that are obviously opposed to it. But I think that the American over time people are going to realize that gerrymandering is a problem that has to be stopped,” he says.
By Kevin McManus