Harlem Rep. Espaillat Amendment To H.R. 1, For People Act Passes Unanimously In US House

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which included an amendment authored by Harlem Representative Adriano Espaillat to strengthen diversity requirements for state redistricting commissions.

The For the People Act is House Democrats’ signature initiative to improve government ethics laws, strengthen voting rights and voter ballot access, get dark money out of politics, and reform the redistricting process. Specifically, the bill requires that every state to set up 15-member independent redistricting commissions and ensures that the pool of applicants to serve on the commission include members of under-represented communities, such as people of color.

Rep. Espaillat’s amendment would require the Government Accountability Office to study the commissions once they are finally constituted to ensure their membership adequately reflects the diversity requirements set forth in the bill.

“When it comes to redistricting, communities of color are all too familiar with the old adage that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” said Rep. Espaillat. “That’s why I offered this critical amendment to ensure historically disadvantaged communities have a voice in the redistricting process. As we know, no matter what requirements we set at the federal level, some states have a history of doing everything they can to skirt them. My amendment will help combat that.”

“When it comes to redistricting, communities of color are all too familiar with the old adage that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” said Rep. Espaillat. “That’s why I offered this critical amendment to ensure historically disadvantaged communities have a voice in the redistricting process. As we know, no matter what requirements we set at the federal level, some states have a history of doing everything they can to skirt them. My amendment will help combat that.”

“I am also glad that language I advocated for that would ensure districts to not divide communities of interest was included in the bill. I am grateful to Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren and Congressman John Sarbanes, who worked with me to make sure this language protecting the rights and representation of communities of color and historically underrepresented communities is part of our party’s historic For the People Act.”

The Espaillat amendment received support from key groups who worked on the voter protection and redistricting provisions of H.R. 1, including NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“The Espaillat amendment will provide an important nationwide, objective assessment of how states are doing in meeting the obligation that they have commissions that are diverse and reflect their states,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The Brennan Center recommended passage of Rep. Espaillat’s amendment.

“We thank Congressman Espaillat for his leadership on this issue,” said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “It is important that there is diversity in the membership of state redistricting committees, and that we have an accurate account.”

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