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tv   Redistricting the Courts  CSPAN  March 21, 2018 6:09pm-7:06pm EDT

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congressman rod blum from iowa and alen lowenthal of california join the organization common cause to talk about the need for all states to have an independent, non-partisan congressional redistricting process. this is just under an hour. >> good morning, everyone. we are going to get started. we are still waiting for one other speaker, and hopefully arrive in the next couple minutes. but we would like to start. my name is marilyn carpinteyro, i'm the director for state operations at common cause. i thank you all for joining us this morning in a really important discussion. and thank you to our panelists who have come from different parts of the country to be part of this important conversation. every ten years following the census, every legislative district in the united states must be redrawn.
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from the u.s. representatives to state legislators and city councils, we redraw them so that all americans have equal representation at every level of government. unfortunately, this important process is often hijacked for political purposes, in a way that sub verts the very basic foundation of our representative democracy. in most states, a clear conflict of interest exists in which the legislators draw their own districts or congressional maps for personal and political advantage. they hire partisan political consultants to draw districts using sophisticated software and big data to preordain the outcome of elections for an entire decade. in a process that should prioriti prioritize representation and changing demographics has become one more part of an ongoing partisan war in which american voters are victims. fortunately, the people are fighting back. in the states, citizen activists and volunteers are putting their
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energy into fundamental democracy reform. in michigan, an effort from a single facebook post asking who wanted to help gerrymander has blossomed into voters, not politicians. an all volunteer democracy force that recently submitted more than 450,000 signatures to put an initiative on the 2018 ballot this november. to create an independent citizens commission. in ohio, decades of advocacy paid off when legislators passed reform to state legislative districts that voters approved in 2015. now legislators have put a referendum on the may 2018 ballot to change account congressional districts are done. in addition to michigan, there are a number of other states with ballot initiatives, including colorado, oklahoma, missouri and utah. eight states still have redistricting litigation. and advocates are making historic gains that could result
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in a nationwide limitation on prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. in the consolidated cases of league of women voters v. north carolina, a federal court struck down a map as an unconstitutional gerrymander for the first time in history. the supreme court could hear the appeal later this year. in just eight days, high court will hear a challenge to the blatant gerrymander in maryland's map. the justice surprised court watchers when they agreed to hear the case despite not ruling on gill v. whitford. it appears that the supreme court could be poised for historic action this summer on partisan gerrymandering by deciding the challenge to a republican gerrymander and a democr democratic gerrymander at the same time. an issue that has really been
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drawing much attention, however is now matching significant importance today and all of a sudden we see ourselves thrown at the forefront and the center of a public fight to fundamentally protect our constitutional rights. i want to first start off by welcoming congressman loewen that'll, a districting reform champion, serving his third term in california's congressional district. thiss a state legislator he took a stand in favor of fair redistricting in definance of hs own party. he recently led recruitment of members of congress for a brief and signed briefs in both partisan gerrymandering cases at the supreme court to intervene to protect fair representation. congressman lowenthal. >> thank you. oh, this is on now. thank you. hi, i'm alan lowenthal.
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i'm hoping my congressman rod blum will be here. i want to thank him in absentia. and i know rod will be here. i had the very good fortune of working with tom when i decided to work with common cause others to take the lead on the amicus brief. we worked on the last one, which was the amicus brief on the -- our fwif first one was really on the arizona case. a little background. i was elected to the california state legislature in 19 -- november of 1998. so i arrived in early 1999, to sacramento. i went through the process on
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the 2001 redistricting in california. now, i will tell you that i'm a democrat. california in 2001, like today, is overwhelmingly democratic state. our leadership had the control over the drawing of the boundaries. so that was the background. and i found that in 2001, when i went through that redistricting, a terribly offensive process. it wasn't only so bad in the public hearings. but late at night when the boundaries were being drawn, we would sit late at night in -- and those that were actually drawing the map would say, what do you need? can you give up something here? and i found that process totally offensive, a process that really reinforced the self-interests and the protection of incumbency
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rather than redistricting, which would be communities of interest and really creating accountability and that members would be accountable to their districts. so in 2002, when we began to work on -- when i began after the 2001 redistricting, at that time, california had 34 democrats in the congressional delegation and 19 republicans. it was 34, out of our 53 members pip then beg i then began to work with kathy fong and common cause in california to stee what could w do. i helped found a group of a small group of renegades, the bipartisan caucus.
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four or five democrats and four or five republicans. and my responsibility was to look at, how do we take redistricti redistricting out of the hands of the elected officials and give it back to the people. so we worked real hard at looking at models throughout the during in the early 2000s, 2004, 2005. we brought in the arizona redistricting commission, asked them what worked, what didn't work. if we were going to adopt something in california, how could we do it. then we began to work on it, using the arizona model as our model, but changing things to make it to update it and to make sure that we could deal with some of the issues around litigation and some of the real problems that arizona had, in terms of litigation, and we worked on that in our model. i want to get into that specifically. it was a very positive process. to get something on the ballot in california, you either had to go through the initiative process, or you get two-thirds of the legislature to do it.
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two-thirds of the state senate, which by the time 2004 came, i was then elected to the state senate and continued my work on redistricting, trying to create an independent commission. but by 2004, 2005, the democratic leadership said, well, we really like, you know, this concept, but we're not doing it here in california. you know, we're the party in power. why should you, as a democrat, kinda lead the charge for us to give up that power? my big thing was, you know, if we're -- if you trust the people, and we have fair districts, districts that really reflect communities of interest and not the gerrymandering that goes on to protect incumbency and that, we will gain seats. we will not lose seats. because it's a fundamental mistrust of the public when you engage in gerrymandering, because you're saying, you don't
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trust the public and you need the legislature to draw the districts. we got that out by a two-thirds vote out of the state senate. it was amazing. everybody in california was just shocked that we had 27 votes out of the 40 senators to pass an independent redistricting commission. the bill never came up in the assembly. the bill got lost in the sacramento river someplace. it just got buried, never to be found again. that's when common cause and others began to take this model and work with governor schwarzenegger then, say the legislature won't put it out, we'll use this as kind of a model, modify it again, and try to put it on the ballot as an independent. that's what happened. we did it, we got it on the ballot. and it passed. you know, up until then, if you look at from the 1960s or the 1970s, whenever either the
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legislature couldn't come to grip, couldn't deal with redistricting after each census, and so it ended up having the courts decide, i think, twice, in 1971 or '72 and 1991 or '92, got punted to the courts because the legislature couldn't get their act together. and then in the other years when the democrats, i believe, were in control, or the legislature was in control, they did the redistricting and i was part of that last one in 2001. and as i say, we were told, you can't go to independent, you're going to lose seats. it's the worst thing that a party in power can do, to give up their own power. that's what this place is all about is power. and i said, that's not what this place is all about. this place is all about having people that really have to be representative of their districts and listen to the people in their district and try to make it as competitive, if we can, and compact and kinda
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follow the law. we almost followed the law every time before we had the independent commission. but as i mentioned, when i first started at the middle of the night, everything got turned around, everybody stopped following the law and started protecting themselves. so we did that. the people voted on it in california. and actually, in our state, democrats picked up. we went from 34 seats to 39 seats, and the democrats were the ones that fought against the redistricting commission. totally. they were the ones that opposed redistricting, was the democratic party, because they saw giving up power. i kept saying, if we represent the people, don't be frightened. you know, we'll do just fine. when i came here, my first bill -- and so we did that, our first independent redistricting commission came out in 2011 for the 2012 election.
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what was interesting is, that was the first time that the lines were not -- the boundary, we were not sued by some group. we did not have a suit. everyone said, we didn't get everything we wanted, but it was a fair process. everybody had a chance to see what was going on, and it was an open process. so we had no litigation at all, which i think. then when i got here, i tried to introduce something similar to this, to what we had done in california. said let the people draw the lines. and then i worked with -- looked around for who could i find who would be supportive of these issues and began to identify a number of people. and we worked on the amicus brief on the arizona case, and then we did the amicus brief on the gill versus whitford, and that's where my colleague, congressman blum stepped up and helped to take the lead on that, also on the amicus brief on gill
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versus whitford. so now we're seeing that what was kind of a very non-sexy issue, something that was kinda in the background, all of a sudden we're seeing now, this has come to the forefront. whether it's the wisconsin case, the maryland case, the north carolina case, all now in one way or another, before the supreme court, it's an exciting, exciting time. because what was at one time just talked about and was said, well, you can't do this, you know, there's no way of really assessing what is, you know, really partisanship or what is, you know, how do you really measure excessive partisanship. that, they are now struggling with all of these issues and before the court. so i think this is totally appropriate that we're meeting here today, because this is the critical issue that is now
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before the courts, i believe justice ginsburg has said, this the most important cases that the supreme court will be hearing this year. this is the key cases that we will be deciding. and so everybody's really excited, and you know, then we just heard yesterday, also pennsylvania, that the supreme court upheld the state court -- the state supreme court and the state's gerrymandering. so we're seeing again that we really have an opportunity in 2020 to really move the ball forward, to really have hopefully for the first time, fairer districts, districts that really -- membership that really reflects the members, the needs of the district, rather than the needs of the political parties. so i think that's very, very
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important. and so i'm very, very pleased to be here. i want to thank you. i'm just going to end. i think this is a very exciting time, and thank you all for coming, and let's get on with it and let's work on these cases and understand, educate ourselves. because i will tell you, most members of congress do not understand or this is very low on their priority list. and our job is to educate them, is to say, this is not low on the priority list. and so that's why we're here. that's why i'm going to be supportive, and thank you. >> thank you, congressman. and thank you congressman blum for also joining us. i actually would like to turn to congressman blum. i could give you a few minutes and then move on to the next speaker if you're ready to jump in. >> my mike's on. >> yeah. >> i'm ready to jump in. i'm told i have two minutes. >> i'm sure we could give you a
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couple more than two minutes. congressman, thank you for joining us. congressman blum is serving his second term representing iowa's first congressional district. congressman blum took a stand against partisan gerrymandering when he signed a amicus brief opposing republican gerrymandering in wisconsin. his home state uses a model that common cause supports in several states. thank you for joining us. >> thank you for having me here today. you know, gerrymandering is a serious subject, because i googled gerrymandering jokes last night, knowing i was going to be here today. there weren't any. so this must be serious stuff, congressman. but i did find out this. back in 1812, the governor of massachusetts gerrymandered a district and one of the newspapers printed a picture of the gerrymandered district and
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said, this looks like a salamander. and this made it all over the state of massachusetts. and someone said, no, that's not a salamander, that's a gerrymander, because the governor's last name was jerry. so if you learn nothing else from what i say today, now you know where gerrymandering comes from. i'm from iowa, and i'm from the first district of iowa. iowa does not gerrymander. just let me tell you briefly about my district. in 2008, former president barack obama won my district by 18 points. in 2012, he won it by 14 points. president trump in 2016 won it by 3 points. it's not a gerrymandered district. i think if we had more districts that could do that, that go both directions, it would be a much different government today, would it not? my predecessor was bruce braley, he was a democrat.
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his press sesor was jim russell, he was a republican. i'm a republican. this is the type of district that is always in play, is always a target of both parties, quite frankly, depending on who currently has the seat. i think this is the way, if every district -- i think the congressman would agree with this -- if every district in the country were a competitive district, i think we'd have -- i know we'd have better representative government, because you have to listen to your constituents. you have to listen to the voters. i always jokingly say in my office, there's never an easy vote for my office or for me. because i have to sit there and look at all the different perspectives on every single vote, almost. especially the big ones. lot of my colleagues, that's not the case. because they know they're in safe seats. i know there's a tremendous amount of frustration in the country, not just this year.
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it's been there every two years, it seems to me. people are frustrated that congress, especially the house, it never changes power. we know it does. but the people are so frustrated, congressional approve rating is 8%, 10%, 12% -- what are we at? 8%? >> something like that. >> you would think the entire house is going to change over, right? nope. 95% of the seats are always safe. it's always the same 40 seats in districts like mine that are competitive, that become targets. and quite frankly i'd be lying to you if i said it's fun being a target. it's not fun. but i'll tell you what, it does make you a better representative because i don't live in washington, d.c. i go back to my district every weekend. when we're not here, i'm there. now i love iowa, i love my home, i love my family. don't get me wrong, but i need to be there, and out in the district working and listening to republicans, independents and
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democrats. because it's a tough district. if every congressional member and i'm sure the congressman would agree, had to do that, what would the government be like? and people are so concerned, rightfully so, about not working together. in my district, they talk about bipartisanship a lot. if every district, i'll guarantee you if every district was competitive in this country we'd have bipartisanship. because as a representative, you would -- you are forced to work with the other parties. i often say the democrat party does not have a corner on great ideas. neither does my party have a corner on great ideas. so with that being said, let's sit down and work together. let me tell you -- two minutes, though. i'm sure i'm way over. let me tell you how iowa does it. a computer does the districts, and they make sure they're contiguous, and none following an interstate highway or look like a set of headphones. none of that goes on in iowa. in the computer system, two important things, it does not
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look at where incumbents live, doesn't care at all. secondly, it does not look at party registration. it doesn't look at party registration, the computer system. it just does it geographically. and by making sure that we have four representative seats. so what is that? 750,000 people. just number of people in each district. that's all it looks at. and then our legislature can vote it down or up, cannot amend it. which means politics can't enter into it. and if they don't like it, guess what, the computer system goes back, makes up another map, vote it up or vote it down. so it takes politics out of it, it's the way it's supposed to be. and three of our four districts in state of iowa are very competitive. dave lobesack, my district's more democrat than his. he's a democrat. i'm a republican. and david young, in the third
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district, which includes des moines is very competitive as well. i got involved in this because i've always -- i always wanted to clean up washington. i want to reform this place. i told the president i was going to drain the swamp before he was in to drain the swamp. i'm a career businessman, and i've always wanted to clean up the way things are done here. i've always stood against gerrymandering. and governor schwarzenegger called me up a few months back and asked me to sign on to the amicus brief and we read through it. absolutely i want to get involved in this, whether my party wants me to or not. doesn't matter to me. it's the right thing to do. gerrymandering is bad representation and it makes for bad representation of all of the people. in these safe districts, the party that's out of power, their participation tends to be low.
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their voter turn-out tends to be low. they know their vote doesn't matter. that's a problem. that's not representative congress. whether it's democrat or republican, it goes both ways. so i signed onto the brief and stood against gerrymandering. there's not a single person out here, if you take off the partisan goggles, to say, this is good. no, it's not a good thing. iowa's a model of how to do this correctly. try to take out the partisan politics, so all the people have a voice. i've way over-talked my two minutes, but that's why i'm involved. i'm glad to be involved, and i'll stand against gerrymandering for as long as it takes. i hope we can, to the extent possible, get rid of it, and let's get partisan politics out of this and make sure all the people are represented. thanks so much for having me, and thank you for what you do.
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>> thank you. now i'd like to shift to emmet bondurant, the founding partner at a firm in atlanta. a member of congress's national governing board and he argued in north carolina, where a three-judge panel struck down north carolina's congressional maps where litigation is ongoing. emmett also argued an historic supreme court that ended the portion of congressional districts. could you give us the lay of the land of litigation? >> let me try to do so briefly. you have to understand that many states do not have initiative or refer enda that depend on state legislatures if reform is to come. usually it requires a two-thirds or three-fourths vote of the legislature before they're willing to submit it to the people. and legislators being
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self-interested are not about to adopt any reform just as prior to the one person, one program revolution, you had mal apportioned districts all over the country for over 200 years until the court stepped in. there are now three cases on the way to the supreme court. two have been argued -- one has been argued. one will be argued, one is pending. there is the wisconsin case, which is a challenge to the apportionment of the wisconsin legislature on a statewide basis. primarily under the equal protection clause, a three-judge court in a 2-1 opinion ruled it viola violated the equal protection clause. that case was argued in october and will be decided sometime between now and the adjournment of the court in june. the second case is in maryland. it is an unusual test case brought by a pros yay plaintiff
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who happens to be here today, steve shapiro, challenging a democratic gerrymander of a single congressional district in maryland. the congressional district was one which was historically republican for the last 20 years. the incumbent had won by 20-odd percent of the vote. instead of to meet the standard, the legislature could have moved 10,000 voters out of that district, which was overpopulated, to adjacent districts that were under-populated. instead, they took an axe and cut it in half and moved in 330,000 new people into the district and moved 320,000 people out of the district or vice versa. converted it from a district which had a 12-point republican registration advantage to an
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11-point democratic registration advantage, and to no one's great surprise, the republican incumbent was defeated by 20 percentage points and a democratic was elected and re-elected ever since. the third case is in north carolina, which i am currently involved. common cause was the lead plaintiff in the case and challenged the apportionment of the 13 congressional districts in north carolina. in 2011 when the republicans took over the north carolina general assembly following the 2010 elections, they gerrymandered the districts to convert north carolina, which is a 50/50 state, from one in which there was a 7-6 democratic majority to a 10-3 republican majority by gerrymandering the districts. two of the districts they gerrymandered on racial quota. and those were held unconstitutional and affirmed by
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the supreme court. in 2016, the district ordered the districts redrawn. so the republican legislature then adopted, still under the control of the republicans with super majorities in both houses, adopted written criteria, the objective of which was to preserve the partisan advantage they had created in 2011. they spchkalecifically said in written criteria, that this would be a partisan gerrymander. they directed the map drawers to use political data, meaning, how districts voted in 20 statewide elections between 2008 and 2012, and draw the districts to maintain the existing 10-3 republican advantage, and they did that. in january, a three-judge district court in a 204-page opinion which i recommend you to
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read, found this was a deliberate partisan gerrymandering that violated not one, but four separate provisions of the constitution. it violated the first amendment. the court found that effectively what this was, was viewpoint discrimination. and under established supreme court law, neither states, nor the federal government, can demonstrate -- can discriminate between people based on their political beliefs, their political viewpoints about any particular issue. secondly, the court ruled that it violated the equal protection clause. interestingly enough, in all three cases, no state and none of the amicus briefs, of which there are more than 50 supporting the states, have argued that this partisan gerrymandering is legitimate, that it serves any democratic
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purpose, or any legitimate state interest. traditionally under supreme court law, statutes that discriminate have to serve a state interest, at least a legitimate state interest, and no one has yet argued that there's anything legitimate about this. instead, they say, like the biblical quote, that the poor shall always be with us, that politics are just a part of the process and you gotta live with it. well, you don't. the third ground on this the court in north carolina declared the plan unconstitutional applies only to congressional districts. and that is under the elections clause, which you remember is the clause in which the constitution delegates to the states the power to determine the time, places and manner of elections of members of the house of representatives. the supreme court in two cases, in the '90s and early 2000s, ruled that the elections clause
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means only that the state has the power to adopt procedural rules for the governance of congressional elections. that this does not include the power to, quote, dictate electoral outcomes to favor or disfavor a class of candidates, or to violate other constitutional limitations. that is established supreme court law. what does a partisan gerrymander do? but dictate electoral outcomes. a partisan gerrymander will dictate whether a republican or democrat will be elected in the general election in every district that has been gerrymandered. what does it do but favor or disfavor a class of candidates. in some districts, it favors democrats. in others, it favors republicans. what is the remedy for that?
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as with racial discrimination and other things, religious discrimination, stop doing it. use neutral principles. it is sometimes argued that, well, they comply with traditional principles, these districts are more compact, they don't look as gerrymandered as the original gerrymander. but with modern computers, it is very easy to draw compact districts, contiguous districts, districts that don't divide counties and municipalities and still screw one political party or the other. and to show how successful it is, the cook political report reported that the 2016 elections were the least competitive congressional elections since they have been keeping records since the mid '80s. only 33 congressional districts out of 435 were classified as competitive, which meant by their definition, that they were
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decided within a margin of plus or minus 10%. in my own state in georgia, of 180 house seats, 80% did not have a general election opponent. why? because it wasn't worth the filing fee for the other party to run a candidate in that district. of 14 congressional districts in 2016, only five of the 14 did not have a general election opponent. why? because it wasn't worth the filing fee. so if elections could be democratic and justice ginsburg was notice that, that partisan gerrymandering is incompatible with democratic principles, the court has the opportunity in these three cases to remedy it, and remedy it decisively, clearly, and effectively, just
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as they did in the one-person/one-vote cases in 1964. prior to 1964, you had congressional districts that had five times as many people or ten times as many people in them as others. and state legislative districts that were even worse than that. and the court, even though that had been a 200-year practice, stepped in and said, one person/one vote means equally effective votes, not merely the formal right to cast a ballot. and in partisan gerrymandering, the same principle applies. so we're very op mystic thtimis the court will, in this term or the next, in one or all three of the cases, complete the reapportionment revolution by ending partisan gerrymandering as they did mal apportionment
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50-plus years ago. >> thank you, emmet. and finally, if i can turn to micah sims, the executive director of common cause pennsylvania, who has his hands full with what's going on in pennsylvania. micah? >> good morning. let me share from the beginning a number which i would hope you would etch within your memory banks. 329, 208,270. i would submit this morning they believe our constitution has really carved out and given us a hero for engagement and participation through the exercise of redistricting. allowing our country, state and local municipalities to organize our voting districts according to the current population and
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not historical context, is a meaningful way to help current issues find realtime solutions. we weren't caught in the khasm of the past which often times is diseased with bias and negligence, but redistricting is the now. it's the right now, which helps us live out life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. but redistricting also is our window to an improved government and democracy in the future. so if redistricting is our hero, for an engaging democracy, then gerrymandering is the villain. gerrymandering is the antithesis of a healthy, productive, representative democracy upon if indeed for our form of government to operate as intended, each and every american voter must have the same free and equal opportunity to select his or her representative. remember that number from the beginning? well, since 2012, approximately 329 million votes have been cast during general elections, hoping
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to exercise that opportunity of selecting a congressional representative. but as we have seen, with numerous state and federal lawsuits, as mentioned earlier, many of these votes and, yes, even some of the votes cast by those of us in this room, fell into the abyss, as our districts were damaged bipartisan and even extreme partisan gerrymandering. the damage was harmful, but that harm and damage pushed citizen organization and coalitions to fight for our country because we realized that redistricting needed to be protected and valued just like the votes that were cast. my home, the commonwealth of pennsylvania, found 18 courageous individuals who would not allow their votes to be wasted any longer on unfair maps. the case, which featured plaintiffs, some of who are members of common cause pennsylvania, sought to not only have their voices heard, but establish a congressional map where all voters of pennsylvania
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would feel that their voice and their vote matters. this case weaved its way through the courtrooms, as the words were placed in legal briefs and statements in expert testimony, we realized that there were those who weren't in those courtrooms who wanted toon heard as well. pennsylvania organizations came together under initiatives such as the keystone campaign, where we gathered 30 statewide organization, coalition work like p.a. voices, and concerned citizen efforts with groups like power, which is an interfaith organization based in southeastern p.a., worked diligently to ensure that residents across pennsylvania became aware of the disease, the villain, if you will, known as gerrymandering. people from philadelphia to erie and everywhere in between learned how democracy and our votes were being attacked, diminished and even wasted. dr. martin luther king jr. once
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said our lives begin to end when we become silent about the things that matter. well, in pennsylvania, as well as other states around this country, when it comes to redistricting, gerrymandering, attacking our ability to select gerrymandering, attacking our ability to select our representatives, silence is no longer the order of the day. it's important, and it matters. citizens care and residents who want to know when they cast a vote that it counts. there is no longer a silence on this issue. right now there are initiatives as maryland stated, in placeds like maryland where they were gathered over 400,000 signatures. in the state of georgia, a common cause georgia has actually organized a tour across the state called gerrymandering 101. and other states are doing impactful work across the country. there is no longer silence on this issue because that it is
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time it oo address who should do the map drawing. let's stop allowing the elected officials to choose the voters and have the voters choose the elected officials. time to follow other states such as california where nonpolitician citizens draw and approve the final maps. there is no longer silence on this issue. groups like common cause, women voters, naacp and local organizations are actively allowing people to see how this issue of redistricting connects with kitchen table issues such as jobs, education, economic development and housing. redistricting is being promoted as the hero that keeps hope in the hearts of every current and future voter in our country. yes, we are witness a pivotal moment in democracy. however, we are not only
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optimistic for a decision that allows our hero of redistricting to capture gerrymandering but we are also optimistic of expanding our engaging citizenry who realize that activism and initiatives and working together can truly help improve our democracy. thank you for this opportunity to really speak up for all of those in country who really want to end jerry mandderring and have fair maps. >> i'm going to take a couple of questions. if you could please raise your hand and if we could take questions from reporters first. please identify your affiliation. while you're gathering your thoughts i do have a couple of questions. my first question is directed to you, congressman lowenthal. and you touched a bit on this earlier. what role does congress or can
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congress play in the redistricting process? do you believe we're mostly going to see reform happen at the state level or are we eventually going to get to a point where we can have a national standard developed? >> all of the above. i think there will be in the foreseeable future, we will see the changes occurring at the state level. that's reel where i think the foreseeable future is. i think that it was a fascinating process when we first started to do the arizona case, just to get congress involved in the amikas brief, and what we decided, what common cause and others decided was to have an equal number of democrats and republicans sign-on to the amikas brief. i will be honest, deadly force difficult getting an equal
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number. and we ended up i think having i think ten democrats and ten republicans on the amikas brief. but it took a lot of work to get those 20 who are really the champions in the congress for educating ourselves and in a bipartisan way. and so -- and then i introduced a bill and others have also. my bill was to say -- it was called let the people draw the lines, and it was really based upon the model of taking the drawing of districts out of the hands, as you pointed out, of elected officials and giving it to the people to decide and having a fair process. the importance about independent redistricting is the fairness in the process, having an equal number, not being based upon a partisan model. so what we did in california was to have an equal number of
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republicans, equal number of democrats and independents who are with the chair of the commission being an independent or inclined to state not being a democratic or republican, and any maps had to have all three votes from the buckets. it turns out we didn't even need that, that the commission came together, bonded, figured out what they had to do. and i do believe at the maps came out with voting -- every member of that commission voted for the maps that ended upcoming out. to answer your question, i am not optimistic that congress will drive this train. i think it will be driven by the states and the courts. i think at some point in the future as it builds momentum from the states then the congress will be. but it's hard enough even when
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we have a consensus here to see congress act. congress has to be pushed. the nice thing about what is taking place on independent redistricting or ending gerrymandering is that the pressure is coming from the bottom up. that will lead to great change. because up until now the decision about how legislators would work on redistricting was always a top down model. both parties would send their people to the states. they would draw the maps. they mind determine what those maps would look like, and so when you have people who already have power to say, well, now you're going to have to give it up, it's a very difficult step. so i believe it will be the courts now that will say, you know, determine, and then it'll be from the states themselves. and then i think the congress will act. but i'm not optimistic it'll come right now from the congress. but we have to keep the focus on
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it, the advocates. >> yeah, and i do think there's about 16 states that have some type of activity around redistricting forum, whether it's public education events like what was happening in georgia to develop and reform. and of course we have a number of states with ballot initiatives. on the court side, emmitt, on the side of the maryland case and the wisconsin case, are there any other redistricting cases that you think could make their way to the supreme court? >> well, between those two cases and the north carolina cases, the court is going to have before it the opportunity. and those three cases essentially exhaust the legal theories anybody has come up with yet, having clearly smarter people than we are, you may come up with some other theory if those cases fail.
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but particularly in the north carolina case that is the most thorough opinion written in the field. it cover said four constitutional ground, which exhaust the field as far as anybody knows of the opportunities. if that case is reversed then the supreme court will essentially be saying we can't do anything about this, and that it's fair game. which means that if you think the legislator had been bad here before, it will be open season. there will be no constitutional restraints and it will be more extreme than you had ever seen. on the other hand if the court affirms the north carolina case, it will say it rules favorably especially in the maryland case, which is first amendment case, so maryland and north carolina have that issue in common. and our congressional districts, if it rules that the first
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amendment treats this as a form of viewpoint discrimination or retaliation against voters based on their political believes, the lines are very clear, very bright, which is don't do it. don't pay attention to voting history. don't pay attention to voting registration. just as the courts told legislators except from section 42 of the voting rights act you can't consider race. you can't racially discriminate in redrawing districts. why should you be able to discriminate against democrats, republicans, green party or the independence? and so the court is really guided squarely, and there are no outs. there's no way to kick it to
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somebody else. and whatever theories are put forward the court is going to come up with a solution as they did in the reapportionment cases. i had the privilege of litigatesing litigating in those cases. talking about sending a child to do a man's work. before 1962 the courts took the view that this was all a political question that the courts could not become involved with. and over a period of two years that reversed, and the court said this practice which had existed since the founding of the constitution of unequal districts had to end. and they drew a very clear line in what is called the one person, one vote rule. so your congressional districts, for example, have to be equal in population. not sort of equal. it's not like horseshoes coming
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close will work. you come within mathematical quantity because the federal policies trump any state policies. so this is a real opportunity that none of us foresaw, for the court to step in and really reform american democracy. and we hope that they will not whiff on three pitches. they got three pitches before them. >> i think i just want to add onto that. this is a historic moment because in the past the courts have looked at racial jerry m d
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gerremanderring. and the courts in the past have been reluctant to deal with these because they felt this is very difficult thing to deal with, the partisan jer gerrymandering, and now the courts is now fully addressing the partisanship in this. and his is unheard of, and that's why this what we're doing today is so important for us to learn about. these cases are historic now. >> thank you. is there a question in the audience? okay, i just have one last question before we wrap up. it's in the states. so from your perspective what do you think they need to do to address gerrymandering in their
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states? >> i think they ought to be able to reach out to good causes and find out how to get engaged. i think a number of people from presidential elections bounced off of their sofas and decided to find ways to gelt engaged. i know in pennsylvania gerrymandering became almost that sexy thing that literally rolls from the grass roots for people to rally around. and because, again, that it does connect to so many different things, it remains so engaging and so, you know, nice for people to say, hey, listen, i want my votes to be protectedch i really want to feel when i go to vote it's not wasted. i want to feel it's been protected, and i want to feel that my voice and vote counts and is being related in washington, d.c. so i think people have to go find good government organizations. i also think that in this age of
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activism that people are beginning to start to do it right in their own living rooms and right in their own kitchen. organizing within their own communities, churches, mosques, and synagogues, organizing at the y. finding people who are are really interested to help embrace democracy and educate one another, and figure out ways of real engagement. >> thank you, mica. again, i want to thank everyone. please visit our website you can read about what's happening in the states and also stay up-to-date with what's going on with litigation. so thank you all again and have a great day. [ applause ]
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