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Groups Seek Independent Redistricting Commission Ballot Measures in Five States

As expectations build for potential political power shifts in statehouses and D.C., reform organizations are attempting to seize the opportunity to reshape the political dividing lines for generations. This year, activists in Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia have mobilized efforts to place state and federal redistricting reform on the November ballot, or are conducting ongoing grassroots lobbying in favor of legislative action on the issue.

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This month, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry filed a lawsuit to remove a redistricting ballot measure (Amendment 1) from the ballot, arguing that the language of the measure violates the Missouri Constitution. The ballot measure, pushed by the government transparency campaign group Clean Missouri, would amend the Missouri Constitution to allow redistricting power be given to a nonpartisan expert working with a citizen commission.

Voters in Colorado, Michigan, and Utah will also see ballot questions in November on creating independent commissions for congressional and state legislative districts. Colorado has divided congressional and state legislative districts into two separate ballot measures (Amendment Y and Amendment Z). Meanwhile, Ohio voters overwhelming passed a ballot measure in May that requires bipartisan cooperation in the legislature’s map drawing process for congressional districts.

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Activists in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have begun efforts to change their state's constitutions by transferring redistricting power to independent bodies. Represent Oklahoma, an anti-gerrymandering group, is pushing to create a nonpartisan commission before the next redistricting cycle in 2021. Unlike the other state ballot initiatives, Pennsylvania's Fair Districts PA is looking to pass a constitutional amendment through the legislature (PA HB 2402), while OneVirginia2021 recently launched a 10-month campaign to push for a resolution in both the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions that would call for a ballot measure on the issue.

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