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Reformers Back Bill on Redistricting

A controversial bill to set national redistricting standards may be puttering for support under the dome but it is gaining steam off Capitol Hill with new endorsements from two prominent government reform organizations.

The watchdog groups Common Cause and Public Citizen gave their stamps of approval Wednesday to the measure, sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.). Tanner’s bill would require, among other things, that independent, nonpartisan commissions be established in all 50 states to redraw Congressional district maps just once every 10 years.

So far, 32 Members have signed on to the bill, including one Republican. It also has won the endorsement of the Blue Dog Coalition, a band of conservative House Democrats in which Tanner is a leading member.

Common Cause and Public Citizen join another public interest group, Maryland-based Fair Vote, in supporting the bill.

Ed Davis, vice president of policy and research for Common Cause, said the Tanner legislation fits in line with the reformers’ longstanding support for independent commissions as a reform of redistricting. He said Common Cause, for one, will be working with its membership and at the grass roots to encourage support for and put pressure on Members to back Tanner’s bill.

“Common Cause supports the effort today to set national standards for redistricting reform,” Common Cause said in a statement Wednesday. “And we will continue our nationwide campaign to reform how state legislative and Congressional districts are drawn, pursuing initiative and legislative strategies to establish independent commissions to create competitive elections.”

Tanner said in an interview that support is growing for his bill each day both in and out of Congress, but acknowledged it will take time for enough Members to rally around it to pass it. He added that his measure is one of the best ways to reduce the polarization of Congress and give constituents back the power to truly decide who should represent them.

“More Democrats and several Republicans have expressed interest in it,” he said. “It’s like any other bill that changes things dramatically — it takes time for it to percolate to the public consciousness. Groups like this who come on board can hasten that process of public awareness to the point of moving it from the back burner to the front burner.”

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