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tv   Redistricting the Courts  CSPAN  March 24, 2018 5:29am-6:29am EDT

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public television companies. today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. congressman of iowa and california join the organization common cause to talk about the need for all states to have an independent nonpartisan redistricting process. this is just under one hour. good morning. we are going to get started. we are waiting for one other speaker. hopefully they will arrive in the next couple of minutes. i am the director for state operations at common cause.
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i want to thank you for joining us. thank you to our panelists who have come from different parts of the country to be part of this conversation. every 10 years, average legislative district in the united states must be redrawn. from the u.s. representatives to city council, we redraw the districts to ensure they have equal population so that all americans have equal representation at every level of government. unfortunately this important process is hijacked for political purposes in a way that subverts the very basic foundation of our representative democracy. and most states a clear conflict of interest exists where legislators draw their own districts for personal and political advantage. they hire partisan clinical consultants to draw districts using sophisticated software and data to preordained the outcome of elections for an
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entire decade. in a process that should be prioritized as equal representation and changing demographics, have instead become one more front and ongoing partisan war in which american voters are the ultimate victims. fortunately the people are fighting back. in michigan and effort that started on a single facebook post asking who wanted to help gerrymandering has blossomed into voters not politicians. and all volunteer.democracy is submitted 450,000 signatures to put an initiative on the 2018 ballot this november. to create an independence to this commission. in ohio decades of advocacy paid off on legislators past reform to state legislative districts that voters approved in 2015. now legislative referendum on the may 2018 ballot to change
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how congressional districts are done. in addition to michigan, there are a number of the states that are looking for ballot initiatives. including colorado, oklahoma, missouri in utah. eight states have pending redistricting legislation. advocates are making history gains that could result in a limitation for prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. the federal court city map was unconstitutional gerrymandering for the first time in history. in eight days the high court will hear a chance to a blatant gerrymander of maryland congressional map. the just as surprised court
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watchers while not yet ruling on a challenge to wisconsin assembly districts. it appears that the supreme court could be poised for historic action the summer nonpartisan gerrymandering for deciding a challenge to a republican gerrymander and a challenge to a democratic gerrymander at the same time. an issue that has really been drawn for much attention is now matching significant importance today. all the sudden we see ourselves thrown at the forefront in the center of the public fight to fundamentally protect our constitutional rights. i want to thank our speakers today. i would like to start by welcoming congressman lowenthal. he is serving his third term representing california. as a state legislator, he took a stand and fair redistricting. he recently led the members --
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>> i am alan leventhal i want to thank everyone for coming. i am hoping my colleagues will be here. congressman blom. i had the good fortune of working with rod when i decided to work with common cause and others to take the leadership on. we worked on amicus briefs. he was on the last one which was the amicus brief on the gill versus whitford case.
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i will get to that. it was really on the arizona case. i was elected to the california state legislation and november november 1998. i arrived in early 1999 to sacramento. i went to the process in the 2001 redistricting in california. i will tell you that i am a democrat. california in 2001 like today is overwhelmingly democratic. our leadership have the control over the drawing of the boundaries. that was the background. i found in 2001 when i went through that redistricting, a terribly offensive process. it was not only so bad in the
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public hearings, but late at night when the boundaries were being drawn, we would sit late at night and those drawing the maps would say what do you need? can you give up something here? i found that process totally offensive. the process that really reinforced the self-interest and protection of incumbency rather than redistricting. which would be communities of interest and creating accountability and that members would be accountable to the districts. in 2002, when we began to work on -- i began after the 2001 redistricting. at that time california had 34 democrats in the congressional delegation. and 19 republicans.
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either begin to work with common cause in california to see what could we do. joined a group a group called the bipartisan caucus. there were four or five democrats and 45 republicans. my responsibility was to look at how do we take redistricting out of the hands of the elected officials and give it back to the people. we work hard at looking at models throughout the country. in the early part of the 2000s. we brought in the arizona redistricting commission and ask them what worked and what did not. if we were going to adopt something in california, how can we do it? they would began to work on it. using the arizona model as our model but changing things to update it and make sure that we
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could deal with some of the issues around litigation and problems that arizona had in terms of litigation. it was a very positive process. to get something on the ballot in california either had to go through the initiative process or you get two thirds of the legislature to do it. two thirds of the state senate which by the time 2014, i was elected to the state senate and continued my work on redistricting trying to create an independent commission. by 2004, 2005, the democratic leadership said we like this concept but we are not doing it here in california. we had a party in power why should you as a democrat kind of lead the charge for us to give up that power. my big thing was, if you trust the people and we have fair
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districts, districts that reflect communities of interest and other gerrymandering that goes on to protect incumbency. we would gain seats. we will not lose seats. it is a fundamental distrust of the public when you engage in gerrymandering. because you say don't touch -- trust the public. we got that out by a two thirds vote out of the state senate. it was amazing. everybody was shocked 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. got buried never to be found again. that is when common cause and others took this model and worked with the governor shorts and a to say if the legislature
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will not put it out we will use this as a model to modify it again. and put it does an independent. we got it on the ballot. in the past. -- and it passed. if you look in the 1960s and the 1970s, either the legislature cannot come to grips with redistricting over each census. the courts were deciding twice in 1971 and 1991. the legislature cannot get their act together. and the other years, when the democrats were in control, they did the redistricting and i was part of the last one in 2001. we were told you cannot go to independent, you lose seats.
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i said this place is about having people that have to be representative of the district and listen to the people in the district. and tried to make it as competitive as we can. and compact and follow the law. we almost followed the law every time before we had the independent commission. as i mentioned when i first started, in the middle of the night everything got turned around. everybody stop following the law and started protecting themselves. so we did that. the people voted in california. actually in our state democrats picked up. we went from 39 -- 34 to 39. the democrats thought it would
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give up power. i said if we represent the people, don't be frightened. we will do just fine. when i came here my first bill -- what was interesting is it was the first time that the lines, we were not sued by some good. everyone said we do not get of it and we wanted but it was a fair process. everybody had a chance to see what was going on. and it was an open process. we had no litigation at all. when i got here i tried to introduce something similar. to what we had done in california. i said let the people draw the lines. then i worked with and looked
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for who could i find who would be supportive of these issues? to identify a number of people. we worked on the amicus brief on the arizona case and then my colleague stepped up and helped to take the lead on that. on the amicus brief on gill versus whitford. now we are seeing what was kind of a non-sexy issue that was in the background all of the sudden we see it at the forefront. whether it is the wisconsin case, the maryland case, the north carolina case. they are all before the supreme court. it is an exciting time. what was at one time just talked about and said, you cannot do this.
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there is no way of really assessing what is really partisanship how do you really measure excessive partisanship. they are now struggling with these issues and before the court. i think this is totally appropriate we are meeting today. this is the critical issue that is not before the court. justice ginsburg has said this is the most important cases that the supreme court will be hearing this year. this is the key case we will be deciding. everybody is excited. we heard yesterday, also pennsylvania, that the supreme court upheld the state court. the states gerrymandering. we are seeing again the we
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really have an opportunity in 2020 2022 really move the ball forward. to have hope for the first time we have fair districts and membership that reflects the members. the needs of the district rather than the needs of the political party. i think it's very important. i am very pleased to be here. this is a very exciting time. thank you for coming. let's get on with it. let's work on these cases and understand and educate ourselves. most members of congress do not understand. this is low on their priority list. our job is to educate them. to say this is not low on the priority list. that is why we are here. i will be supportive.
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>> i would like to turn to congressman blum . i can give you a few minutes. >> i am ready. i am told i have two minutes. >> i am sure we can give you a couple more. >> congressman blum is representing i what. he took a stand against partisan gerrymandering when he signed an amicus brief opposing republican gerrymandering in wisconsin. iowa uses >> thank you. >> gerrymandering is a serious subject. i googled gerrymandering jokes last night knowing i would be
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here today. there were not any. this must be serious stuff. but i found out back in 1812 the governor of massachusetts gerrymandered district and one of the newspapers printed a photo of the gerrymandered district and said this looks like a salamander. animated all over the state of massachusetts. someone said that is not a salamander it's a gerrymander because the governor's last name was jerry. if you learn nothing else from one as a today, you know where gerrymandering comes from. i am from iowa. i am from the first district of iowa. iowa does not gerrymander. let me tell you briefly about the district. in 2008 former president barack obama won the district by 18 points in 2012 he won by 14
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points. president trump in 2016 win by three points. it is not a gerrymandered district. if we had more districts that could do that they go both directions, it would be a different government today. my predecessor was bruce braley. he is a democrat. his predecessor was jim russell. he was a republican. i am a republican. this is the type of district that is always in play and always a target of both parties quite frankly depending on who currently has the seat. i think this is the way, if ever district in the country were a competitive district, i know we would have better representative government. you have to listen to your constituents. you have to listen to the voters. i always jokingly say in my
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office, there is never an easy vote. i have to look at all the different perspectives on every single vote. especially the big ones. a lot of my colleagues, that is not the case they know they are in safe seats. there is a tremendous amount of frustration in the country, not just this year. people are frustrated that congress especially the house never changes power we know it does. but people are frustrated that congressional approval rating is 8%. you would think that the entire house would change over. no. 95% of the seats are safe. it's always the same 40 seats in districts like mine that are competitive the become targets. quite frankly i would like if i said it was fun being a target.
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it is not fun. it makes you a better representative. i don't live in washington, d.c. i don't live in washington, d.c. i go back to my district every weekend when we are not here. i love iowa and i love my home and my family. but i need to be there in the district working and listening to republicans, independents and democrats. it is every congressional member had to do that, what with the government be like? people are so concerned about not working together -- in my district we talk about bipartisanship a lot. if every district was competitive in this country we would have bipartisanship. as a representative will forest to work with the other parties. i often say the democratic party does not have a corner on great ideas. and neither does my party.
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with that being said, let's sit down and work together. i am sure i am over. i will tell you how iowa does it. the computer does the districts and make sure they are contiguous and none of the districts following an interstate highway or look like a set of headphones. 9 is on in iowa. the computer system does not look at where incumbents live. secondly it does not look at party registration. the computer system does it geographically. and by making sure we have four representative seats. that is 750,000 people. that is all it looks that. our legislature can vote it down or up and amended. politics cannot enter into it. if they don't like it, the computer system makes up
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another map. vote up or down. it takes politics out of it. three of the four districts in the state of iowa a very competitive. a democrat who was off of me, my district is more democrat than his. in the third district which includes des moines, is a very competitive district. i think it makes us better representatives. i got involved in this because i have always wanted to clean up washington. until the president i was going to drain the swamp before he drained the swamp. i am a career businessman. i always wanted to clean things up here. i have been against gerrymandering. the governor called me and asked me to sign on to the amicus brief. and i said absolutely. i want to get involved in this.
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whether my party wants me to are not. it is the right thing to do. gerrymandering is bad government and makes for bad representation of the people. i think. the safe districts, the party that is out of power, their participation tends to be low. the better turnout tends to be low. because they know their vote does not matter in the congressional district. that is a problem. this goes both ways. i signed on to the brief. and stood against gerrymandering. there is not a single person who would say this is good if they took off their political rivals. i think iowa is a model. so all the people have a voice. i am glad to be involved.
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i will stand against gerrymandering for as long as it takes. i hope we can get rid of it. he thank you for having me. >> i would like to shift. three-judge panel don't north carolina congressional maps where litigation was ongoing. could you give us the lay of the land of litigation? >> let me try to do so briefly. you have to understand that
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many states do not have initiative or referendum that been on state legislatures if reform is to come. usually requires a two thirds force vote of the legislature before they are willing to submit to people. the legislators are not about to adopt any reform. just as prior to the one person one vote revolution you had now portion districts all over the country for 200 years until the court stepped in. there are now three cases on the way to the supreme court. there is the wisconsin case which is a challenge to the portion of the wisconsin legislature on a statewide basis. brought primarily under the equal protection clause.
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three-judge court in a opinion ruled it violated the equal protection clause. the case was argued in october and will be decided sometime between now and the adjournment in june. the second case is in maryland. it is an unusual test case brought by a pro se plaintiff who happens to be a today. steve shapiro. challenging a democratic gerrymander of a single congressional district in maryland. congressional district was historically republican for the last 20 years. the incumbent had one by 20% of the vote. instead of one man one vote standard, the legislature could have simply moved 10,000 voters out of the district which was overpopulated. to adjacent districts that were
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underpopulated. instead they took an accident cut it in half and moved in 330,000 new people into the district and moved through the 20,000 people out of the district or vice versa. converted it from a district which had a 12 point republican registration advantage to an 11.democratic registration advantage. to know was great surprise the republican incumbent was defeated was defeated by 20 percentage points a democrat has been elected ever since. third case is in north carolina. common cause with the lead plaintiff and challenged a portion of the 13 congressional districts in north carolina. in 2011, the gerrymandered the districts to convert north carolina which is a 50-50 state
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from one in which there was a 76 democratic majority to a 10éthree. two the gerrymandered on a racial quota. this were held unconstitutional in the public the civil court. in 2016 the district court 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. this observing way said in a written criteria that this would be a partisan gerrymander. they directed the map drawers to use political data meaning how districts voted in 20
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statewide elections between 2008 and 2012 and draw the district to maintain the existing republican advantage. they did that. in january three-judge district court in a 204 page opinion, that this was a deliberate partisan gerrymandering that violated not one but four separate provisions of the constitution. violated the first amendment. the court found that effectively with this was was viewpoint discrimination. and under established supreme court law neither states or the federal government can demonstrate can discriminate between people based on their political beliefs, clinical viewpoints without any particular issue. secondly the court ruled that it violated equal protection
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clause. interestingly enough in all three cases, no state and none of the amicus briefs of which there are more than 15 supporting the states have argued that this partisan gerrymandering is legitimate.
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