Cohen Introduces Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act

January 16, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) has introduced the John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting (FAIR) Act (H.R. 278), which would require states to take their congressional apportionment out of the political process and place it in the hands of an independent redistricting commission.

“It’s time to take politics out of the redistricting process,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Congress is so polarized today that we’re unable to find common ground on the major issues facing our country.  Instead of solving our nation’s problems, Congress is just kicking the can down the road and waiting until the next election for answers.  I believe that if we eliminate the gerrymandering of districts we will help get more accomplished for our country.”

This legislation was championed for many years by former Congressman John Tanner and was introduced in the last Congress by former Congressman Heath Shuler.  Should the legislation become law, beginning after the 2020 census The FAIR Act would require each state to appoint an independent and transparent congressional redistricting commission.  The commission would be charged with creating a redistricting plan that emphasizes geographical contiguity and compactness of districts rather than political affiliations or the impact a district’s lines may have on incumbent representatives.

The state legislature and the governor may approve or reject the commission’s plan, but may not amend it.  If the governor does not sign into law a plan by November 1st in the year before a congressional reapportionment, the commission may forward plans to the state’s highest court, which may select a plan, but may not make any amendments.  If the state court is unable to select a plan, the federal district court must develop and publish a final redistricting plan.  The bill also prohibits a state from redistricting until after the next census unless it is under court order to do so.