The significance of the Supreme Court case on extreme partisan gerrymandering

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Washington, DC, September 29, 2017 | comments
It is a privilege to live in a country where someone like myself, raised by parents with 10th grade educations, can live the American dream. I am a small businessman, a coach, a father, a husband -- not a career politician. I ran for office because I believe in the American dream -- the faith that education, initiative, and hard work can earn anyone a better life in this country -- is a dream worth defending. I was raised to believe that in America, the greatest country on Earth, each of us has a voice in our government. This is guaranteed by our Constitutional right to vote, but excessive partisan gerrymandering poses a threat to the responsive, accountable, and representative government we hold dear.

The Declaration of Independence guarantees that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed." The Constitution assures this through Article IV’s Guarantee Clause -- the promise of a republican form of government. It is this Constitution, which we as members of Congress, take an oath to uphold the day we assume office. It is time for Congress to defend this sacred oath and ensure our legislature properly represents constituents from every corner of the country rather than the interests of political parties.  


Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, too many politicians don’t want a free and open system where those who are governed -- the voters -- have a truly free choice for those who represent and make laws for them. Instead, Democrat and Republican politicians alike often game the system so, to the extent possible, they can choose their own districts and ensure they stay in power. Today’s powerful technology and voter information allows lawmakers to rig and game the system in ways that never before could have been imagined.     
A recent survey conducted by a bipartisan team of pollsters shows that the American people are fed up with politicians manipulating the maps to design their own districts, and want the Supreme Court to act.  By an overwhelming margin of 71 percent - 15 percent, Americans want the Supreme Court to place limits on lawmakers’ ability to manipulate voting maps. This includes 80 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Independents and 65 percent of Republicans. What’s more, by a margin of 62 percent - 10 percent, voters are less likely to support a candidate who is supportive of partisan gerrymandering and by an even greater margin (73 percent - 14 percent) prefer removing partisan bias from redistricting, even if it means their preferred political party will win fewer seats.

On Oct. 3, 2017, the Supreme Court will hear verbal argument in the Gill v. Whitford partisan gerrymandering case. I was proud to join a bipartisan group of 36 past and current members of Congress in signing an amicus brief in support of eliminating extreme partisan gerrymandering.  

When I started a software company seventeen years ago, one of the first things I learned was: if I didn’t listen to my customers, I wouldn’t have a successful business. I am honored to represent a competitive district drawn by a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Furthermore, Iowa’s system has led to some of the nation’s most competitive races. In a country where the vast majority of members of Congress coast to reelection, most of Iowa’s congressional races are perennially close. The competitive nature of my district requires me to listen to all my constituents and take their views into account, much like a small businessman must listen to his customers.  

My ability to maintain an independent voice -- joining my party when it makes sense, and breaking away when it’s the right thing to do for my constituents -- is supported by these non-partisan practices. Yet too many states allow the political party in charge to cut and slice the maps in ways that benefit them.

We have crucial decisions before us in Congress. We need to reform healthcare, strengthen our immigration system, implement tax reform and drain the swamp, but too many Americans don’t trust Congress to act in their interest and do the people’s work. To win back the public’s trust, reforming the way Congress does business needs to be front and center.  

Having supported several bills to eliminate congressional perks, such as taxpayer-funded first-class flights, Cadillac pension plans, and luxury car leases for members, I personally know how difficult it is to find members of either party willing to support efforts which benefit their constituents rather than their own careers. I’m especially proud to have joined Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) in co-founding the House Term Limits Caucus to ensure our legislature is made up of citizens, not a ruling class of political elites. 

If the Supreme Court limits the most extreme partisan gerrymandering, it will be a powerful step in the direction of restoring trust, and ensures the promise of America that Abraham Lincoln reminded the citizenry of at Gettysburg, "government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
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