Single-member districts enable gerrymandering and make fair representation impossible. With multi-member districts and proportional representation, gerrymandering would be futile.
WASHINGTON, DC – Fix Our House released the following statement in response to yesterday’s oral arguments in Moore v. Harper:
Moore v. Harper could have catastrophic implications for representation in the United States. The “independent state legislature” theory at the heart of the case – that state legislatures have total power over elections and are unaccountable to courts – would provide no limits on manipulated and gerrymandered maps, however partisan and extreme.
Yet no matter how the Court decides this case, the way the United States currently elects Congress makes gerrymandering possible and makes truly representative districts impossible.
“When districts have only one representative each, district lines can be manipulated to favor one party or group over another,” said Fix Our House spokesperson Dustin Wahl. “But when districts have multiple representatives elected in proportion to their party’s amount of support, gerrymandering becomes futile. Proportional representation offers a way to avoid both rogue state legislatures and rogue courts.”
Moore v. Harper is ultimately a debate over the interpretation of Article I, Section IV of the Constitution, which defines the ability of state governments to determine the “times, places and manner” of elections. But what is not up for debate is that Article I, Section IV explicitly empowers Congress to change the rules around how Congress is elected - for instance, to change from single-member districts to multi-member districts with proportional representation. By simply repealing a 1967 law mandating single-member districts, Congress could fix the problem of gerrymandering and make districts more representative of voters.
A proportional system would rely less on the courts to protect voting rights and political equality. As Aziz Huq and Lee Drutman explained in Democracy Journal: “The Court has told us over and over: It won’t referee the electoral process. There’s only one way forward: Change the political process so the Court can’t play the referee.” By neutralizing the biggest conflicts in redistricting, multi-member districts would not be subject to politically-charged litigation or inaction from the courts.
More than 200 political scientists, historians, and legal scholars recently wrote an open letter to Congress arguing that the United States should move to a system of proportional representation: “It is clear that our winner-take-all system — where each U.S. House district is represented by a single person — is fundamentally broken.”
The Supreme Court should not throw out 200 years of precedent based on a bogus theory that could devastate representation in the United States. But whatever the Court decides, Congress could avoid this problem entirely by empowering states to adopt proportional representation.