To Protect Voters of Color, Congress Must Pass the Freedom to Vote Act ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 
Brennan Center
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To Protect Voters of Color, Congress Must Pass the Freedom to Vote Act
Last month, Senate Democrats introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, a bill that would dramatically change how congressional districts are drawn across the country.
If passed by Congress, the Freedom to Vote Act would be the most significant update to the rules for redistricting in the country’s history — banning partisan gerrymandering, which has historically diluted the political power of communities of color, and strengthening other protections for communities of color. The bill also would make it much easier — and faster — to challenge discriminatory maps in court — a process that can often take years to complete.
But, with redistricting already underway, the Brennan Center’s Michael Li warns, “Time is of the essence. Every day that passes increases the risk that communities of color will bear the brunt of a brutal redistricting cycle, with fallout that could be decade long.”
Read more about the Freedom to Vote Act’s redistricting provisions here.
New Districts Should Reflect a Changing America
Invariably, for reporters and others watching the redistricting process, the temptation will be to tell the story of the cycle through the simplified lens of a battle between political parties.
But redistricting isn’t just a story about the partisan effects of maps. An equally important measure is whether a map translates a state's demographic changes into its new electoral districts. The Brennan Center has released a series examining last decade’s profound demographic changes in four states: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. As Yurij Rudensky and Gabriella Limón write, “All four states tell similar stories of rapid population growth. All feature a redistricting process dominated by a single party, and all have an ugly recent history of redistricting abuses and racial discrimination.” In all, map drawers will face moral choices about how they treat diversifying communities. You can find the entire series here.
Featured Map
In the past, Texas Republicans gerrymandered large cities like Austin, dividing them into multiple districts to dilute Democratic votes. This decade, that same technique is being applied to the state's increasingly diverse and competitive suburbs. For example, under Republicans’ proposed congressional map, large parts of suburban Denton County, north of Dallas, would be transferred from a compact suburban district into TX-13, a sprawling, mostly rural district stretching all the way to the Texas Panhandle.
Redistricting in the News:
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that Republican members of the state’s redistricting commission may be questioned in the ongoing lawsuits over the state’s legislative districts, including one filed by the Brennan Center. The Republican leaders of the state house and senate, who served on the commission, argued that the discovery process was too burdensome, but the court ruled that the parties must reply to the plaintiff’s questions and requests for documents. The depositions must take place by October 21 and oral arguments are to be in December. You can find more information on the Brennan Center’s lawsuit over Ohio’s maps here.
In Colorado, civil rights groups have challenged the map proposed by the independent redistricting commission, claiming that the districts would dilute the political power of the state’s Latino voters, who make up 21 percent of the population. The Colorado Supreme Court has until November 1 to determine whether the commission must redraw its map.
The bipartisan redistricting commission in Virginia has virtually collapsed after its Democratic co-chair walked out of an October 8 meeting claiming that the Republican commissioners were not negotiating in good faith. Should the commission be unable to pass a legislative map in the next two weeks, the Virginia Supreme Court will draw legislative districts.
In Michigan, the independent redistricting commission held a surprise vote and passed a draft state senate map that would significantly alter district lines and make the chamber more competitive. The commission has received criticism throughout the redistricting process, recently from the group that helped create it in the first place.
Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted to reject a map proposed by nonpartisan legislative staff, claiming that the proposed districts were inadequately compact and contiguous. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has said she will convene a special session on October 28 so legislators can vote on a second map.
In Texas, where communities of color accounted for 95 percent of Texas’s population growth last decade, the state senate approved a congressional map that would reduce the number of districts where the majority of residents are Black or Latino. The map will now go to the Texas House and must be approved before the legislature’s special session ends later this month.
In Florida, two political science professors are alleging that the state legislature is preventing the public from evaluating proposed districts by contracting to use software that makes it difficult for members of the public to assess the partisan fairness of a proposed map. Other advocates are worried that the slow pace of the state’s redistricting process will make it more difficult for members of the public to participate.
The chair of the North Carolina Senate Redistricting Committee, Sen. Ralph Hise (R), has put forward a congressional map that would eliminate a historically Black congressional seat currently held by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC).
In South Carolina, the ACLU and the state branch of the NAACP have filed a lawsuit in federal court over the delays in the state’s redistricting process. Plaintiffs argue that in delaying the passage of maps to “December or January,” the legislature would make it extremely difficult for the public to assess the maps’ legality before the 2022 primary filing deadline.
A Pennsylvania state court dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Pennsylvania’s current congressional districts. The suit was supported by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and preemptively argued that the governor and legislature would not be able to pass a new map.