This bill — known as the Fair Representation Act — would enact several reforms to elections to the House of Representatives by requiring states to utilize ranked choice voting, have multi-member districts, and redistrict using an independent commission.
Ranked Choice Voting
Rather than having one vote when choosing their member of Congress in a general election, voters would be able to rank candidates 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so forth on their ballot. Voting would occur in rounds, with every ballot’s first choice counted first, and the threshold to win would range from a majority (50% + 1) from single member districts to one-third of the vote for two seats, one-fourth for three seats, one-fifth for four seats, and one-sixth for five seats.
If a candidate exceeds the threshold of votes from ballots where they were first, they’d be elected. Votes for winning candidates are “reweighted” so that any part of the votes that didn’t help elect that candidate count for the next ranked choice in the following round. In a round where no candidates pass the threshold, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and if a voter chose that candidate then their vote would count for their next choice. The process would repeat until all seats are elected.
The single-winner district mandate that is currently in effect would be repealed and replaced with a multi-winner district mandate for states that have more than one seat in the House. States that have five or fewer members won’t use districts and elect all members statewide.
States with more than six members would hold elections from multi-winner districts that could have no fewer than three and no more than five members, with all a state’s districts with an equal number of persons per seat.
For primary elections, parties would put forward candidates equal to the number elected from that district. States that have “Top Two” rules that advance the top two candidates would advance twice that number from the primary to the general election.
Congressional Redistricting Requirements
States that elect House members from districts (as opposed to statewide) would be required to establish an independent redistricting commission. A nonpartisan agency would develop a pool of 60 candidates, with 20 each from the state’s majority and minority parties, and 20 unaffiliated with either. A bipartisan legislative committee would approve the pool, and the nonpartisan agency would then randomly choose four commission members from each of the majority, minority, and unaffiliated pools. Those twelve would then choose a chair from among the unaffiliated members.
The following criteria, in order of importance, would be considered by the committee when drawing district lines:
Consistency with the Voting Rights Act;
No district can be completely safe for one political party (based on presidential vote totals from prior elections);
As few districts as possible should elect four candidates (to avoid frequent 2-2 splits);
As many districts as possible should elect five candidates (to maximize proportionality);
Respect for existing political boundaries and communities of interest;
Respect for visible geographic features.
The commission would hold hearings around the state, publish preliminary maps, and then hold at least three further hearings with chances for public comments. A majority of the commission, including at least one from each of the parties and the unaffiliated groups must approve a final congressional district map by August 15th of years ending in number one. If a state doesn’t establish the nonpartisan agency or legislative committee, if the committee doesn’t approve a pool of applicants, or if the independent commission fails to approve a final plan then a panel of federal judges will do it guided by the same criteria.