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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Congressional Redistricting: The Constitutionality of Creating an At-Large District

L. Paige Whitaker
Legislative Attorney

This report discusses the constitutionality of legislation, such as the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, H.R. 157 (111th Congress), that would create an at-large congressional district. While it is not without doubt, based on the authority granted to Congress under the Constitution to regulate congressional elections and relevant Supreme Court precedent, it appears that federal law establishing a temporary at-large congressional district would likely be upheld as constitutional.

H.R. 157, among other provisions, would expand the U.S. House of Representatives by two members to a total of 437 members. The first of these two new seats would be allocated to create a voting member representing the District of Columbia. The second seat would be assigned in accordance with 2000 census data and existing federal law, resulting in the addition of a fourth congressional seat in the state of Utah that would be a temporary at-large district.

On March 2, 2009, the House Judiciary Committee reported the bill, as amended (H.Rept. 111- 22), but no further action was taken by the House. On February 26, 2009, the Senate passed a related bill, S. 160, by a vote of 61-37. During the 110
th Congress, the House passed similar legislation, H.R. 1905, by a vote of 241 to 177. A companion bill, S. 1257, was considered by the Senate, but a motion to invoke cloture failed by a vote of 57 to 42.

Date of Report: December 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 7
Order Number: RS22628
Price: $29.95

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