Following is a "Dear Colleague" letter sent from North Carolina Representatives Mel Watt (D) and Eva Clayton (D) to the other 433 Members of Congress, asking for support of the States' Choice of Voting Act:
February 23, 1999
Empower States for the Next Round of Redistricting
Perhaps more than any other Members we have had to endure the disruptions and uncertainties of congressional redistricting. After three different districts and three trips to the Supreme Court since the 1990 census, our district lines still have not been finally resolved and we're just two years away from having to start all over again. Litigation, which continues even now, has cost North Carolina taxpayers and other parties to the litigation millions of dollars. Additionally, many people believe that the combination of having to create single-member districts and trying to create districts in which minority voters have a chance of electing representatives of their choice has resulted in increased racial polarization and has heightened racial divisions.
With the year 2000 census and new congressional redistricting approaching, we believe it is important for Congress to give States more options to address these difficult issues in ways that could reduce racial polarization yet still comply with the law. Current federal law gives states only one option: single-member congressional districts. This is not a requirement of the Constitution. It was imposed by federal statute in 1967. We believe States should be given the option to decide whether the requirement has outlived its usefulness.
While we can't solve congressional districting problems at the federal level, we can remove the impediment which now prohibits states from trying anything other than single-member districts. The States' Choice of Voting Systems Act would simply empower States to make the choice between single-member districts, multi-member districts or a combination of the two.
We hope you will join us as an original cosponsor of the States' Choice of Voting Systems Act. Please review the enclosed copy and contact one of us or one of our staff members (Ted Kalo at 5-1510 or Corliss James at 5-3101) to become an original cosponsor or for more information. We plan to file this bill on March 1.
Melvin L. Watt Eva Clayton Member of Congress Member of Congress