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Redistricting Legislation 
in the U.S. Congress

January 2004

The U.S. Congress has full authority to regulate legislative redistricting for House races. Historically Congress indeed did pass laws setting national standards, but since the 1920s, very few standards are in place; the primary one is a 1967 law requiring one-seat districts, which ironically prevents states from using the one alternative that truly could eliminate gerrymandering: statewide elections with a full representation system.

In recent years, Congress has hardly even considered legislation to set national standards for redistricting. Until the early 1980s, there were more serious efforts to reform redistricting a the national level. Following is a review of bills introduced since 1973. To see more information on individual bills, click on the links below, or search on the Thomas website by bill number or subject.

 

108th Congress (2003-2004)

HR 2090: This bill is titled "To limit the redistricting that States may do after an apportionment of Representatives" and was introduced on May 14, 2003, by Rep. Maxine Waters of California (with 19 cosponsors). It would limit redistricting to every ten years, unless a state must redraw lines in order to comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act or is ordered to do so by a federal court. Referred to House Subcommittee on the Constitution 6/25/03. No further action taken.

107th Congress (2001-2002)

HR 1189: Would have allowed for states to establish multi-seat districts as long as they adhered to certain requirements in order to ensure full representation. Introduced by Rep. Cynthia McKinney from Georgia (along with 3 cosponsors) on March 22, 2001. Referred to the committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on House Administration. No further action taken.

106th Congress (1999-200)

HR1173: Would have granted states that do not have single-member districts the right to their choice of two redistricting systems. Sponsored by Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina (with 16 cosponsors) on March 17, 1999. Referred to the House Committee on the Constitution -- Hearing held 9/23/99. No further action taken.

HR 5679: Would allow for states to establish multi-seat districts as long as they adhere to certain requirements in order to ensure full representation. Introduced by Rep. Cynthia McKinney from Georgia (no cosponsors) on December 15, 2000. Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary 12/15/00. No further action taken.

105th Congress (1997-1998)

HR 3068: Would allow for states to establish multi-seat districts as long as they adhere to certain requirements in order to ensure full representation. Introduced by Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia (with 13 cosponsors) on November 13, 1997. Referred to House Subcommittee on the Constitution 12/16/97. No further action taken.

104th Congress (1995-1996)

HR 1096: This bill would have prohibited the intentional creation of legislative districts based on race, color or language minority status of voters within such districts. Introduced by Rep. Gary Franks of Connecticut (no cosponsors). Referred to House Subcommittee on the Constitution 3/15/95. No further action taken.

103rd Congress (1993-1994)

HR 4637: Would have prohibited any political jurisdiction from intentionally creating any electoral district in order to prevent or assure a majority in such district of people of a particular race, color, national origin, or who speak a particular language. Introduced by Rep. Henry Bonilla of Texas (no cosponsors) on June 23, 1994. Referred to the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights 7/5/94. No further action taken.

102nd Congress (1991-1992)

HAMDT 532 to HR 2039: This amendment prohibits legal services agencies from using any funds authorized in the bill to participate in any redistricting activities. Sponsored by Rep. Charles Stenholm of Texas on May 12, 1992. Agreed to on 5/12/92.

101st Congress (1989-1990)

HR 1711: Would have provided for the establishment of redistricting commissions in states entitled to a reapportionment of Representatives and set forth requirements to be met by congressional districts established by redistricting commissions, including that they should be composed of contiguous, compact territories and their boundaries should coincide with the boundaries of local political subdivisions. Introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (WI-9) on March 5, 1989. Referred to House Committee on Judiciary 4/5/89. No further action taken.

98th Congress (1983-1984)

HR 3468: This legislation would have set regulations on redistricting procedures, including requiring that districts be contiguous and not be drawn in order to favor specific political parties or individuals or deny effective voting representation to any language or racial minority groups. Introduced by Rep. Rinaldo (no sponsors) on June 29, 1983. Referred to House Subcommittee on Monopolies and Commercial Law 7/7/83. No further action taken.

97th Congress (1981-1982)

HR 2349: Would have set redistricting requirements, including that districts have reasonable numeric equality and not be drawn so as to favor certain political parties or individuals or to deny effective voting representation to any language or racial minority groups. Introduced by Rep. Leach (with 37 cosponsors) on March 5, 1981. Referred to House Subcommittee on Monopolies and Commercial Law 4/10/81. No further action taken.

HR 5529: Would have set regulations for redrawing districts, including that they be compact, drawn with regard to natural and geographic boundaries, coincide with boundaries of local political subdivisions and have relatively equal populations. Would also prohibit drawing district boundaries in order to favor certain political parties or individuals or to deny effective voting representation to any language or racial minority groups. Introduced by Rep. McClory (with one cosponsor) on February 10, 1982. Referred to Subcommittee on Monopolies and Commercial Law 2/16/82. No further action taken.

96th Congress (1979-1980)

HR 1516: Would have required that compact, contiguous districts be established no later than three years after the most recent decennial census and that any state legislature could establish standards to enforce fair and effective districts.  Introduced by Rep. Leach (with 47 cosponsors) on January 25, 1979.  Referred to House Subcommittee on Monopolies and Commercial Law -- Hearings held 11/14/79. No further action taken.

HR 2653: In states entitled to more than one representative, would have required districts to have reasonable numeric equality and that a redistricting commission be set up in order to publish a redistricting plan. Introduced by Rep. Hanley (with 29 cosponsors) on March 6, 1979. Referred to House Subcommittee on Monopolies and Commercial Law -- Hearings held 11/14/79. No further action taken.

S 596: Would have prohibited the redrawing of congressional districts so as to dilute the voting strength of any language or racial minority group. Introduced by Sen. Danforth (with 3 cosponsors) on March 8, 1979. Referred to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs -- Hearings held 6/20/79. No further action taken.

95th Congress (1977-1978) 

HR 14025 / HR 14262 In states entitled to more than one representative, would have required districts to have reasonable numeric equality and that a redistricting commission be set up in order to publish a redistricting plan. Introduced by Rep. Hanley on September 8, 1978. No further action taken.

HR 14311: Would have required that compact, contiguous districts be established no later than three years after the most recent decennial census and that any state legislature could establish standards to enforce fair and effective districts.  Introduced by Rep. Leach (with 21 cosponsors) on October 12, 1978. No further action taken.

94th Congress (1975-1976)

HR 1753: Requires states to submit a redistricting plan no later than three years prior to the census date and ensure that the plan is developed in a nonpartisan manner. Introduced by Rep. White (with one cosponsor) on January 20, 1975. Passed in the House and Senate, became Public Law 94-171 on 12/23/75. 

93rd Congress (1973-1974)

HR 5042: Would have directed states to form redistricting commissions in order to produce a redistricting plan and ensure that districts have reasonably equal population sizes and provide for fair representation for all people, communities of interest, city, suburban and rural areas. Introduced by Rep. Hanley on March 1, 1973. Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary 3/1/73. No further action taken.

HJRES 249: Proposed an amendment to the Constitution requiring districts to contain substantially the same number of citizens. Introduced by Rep. Davis (WI -  no cosponsors) on January 29, 1973. Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary. No further action taken.

HR 8291 (see also HR 8500, HR 8983): Would have required the establishment of compact, contiguous congressional districts. Introduced by Rep Helsoski (with 23 cosponsors) on June 26, 1975. No further action taken.

HR 14998: Would have prohibited states entitled to more than one representative from redrawing districts more than once every ten years. Introduced by Rep. Maguire on August 2, 1976. No further action taken.


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