Former U.S. representatives suggest policies to reform gridlock causes

Lauren Florence

In order to solve the current gridlock in Congress, state politicians should create a non-partisan committee to oversee redistricting, according to former U.S. Reps Tom Davis (R-North Dakota) and Martin Frost (R-California).

Davis and Frost spoke at the LBJ School of Affairs on Tuesday about Congress’s inability to compromise effectively and suggested policy reforms that may help alleviate the problem

According to Davis, the three factors that caused dysfunction in Congress are redistricting, media business models and campaign financing.


[With] the advent of single-party districts … these districts are drawn in such a way to where the other party has no chance,” Davis said. 

Davis and Frost’s potential solutions to ending the bipartisan gridlock included requirements on outside donor groups, national primary days for Congress and equal media coverage.

“We recommend that [there be] a national primary day, not for president, but that all congressional elections occur on a single day,” Frost said. “The reason for this is there would be more media coverage.”

According to Frost, members of Congress are afraid to vote moderately or compromise because they fear someone with more extreme views will replace them in the primary. Therefore, Frost and Martin said Congress should pass legislation requiring each state to have a non-partisan commission for redistricting. Six states have already adopted this system, including Indiana, which employs a “fallback” commission if the legislature is unsuccessful in passing a congressional plan.

“What this means is if you have two Democrats in the final election, they have to talk to the Republicans in their districts,” Frost said. “They have to actually go out and seek Republican support, and that happened in the last election in California.”

There is a push from Congress members against this system because without term limits, they can stay in Congress indefinitely, according to Frost.

“Incumbents don’t want to pass any laws that would require people to run against them, and that would be the result if you had some states that were required to have commissions,” Frost said.

Meenakshi Awasthi, global policy studies graduate student, said, since many college students realize their vote doesn’t really count, there needs to be more positive incentive to vote.

"Voting is so archaic, and it hasn’t progressed with technology or our society,” Awasthi said. “It’s difficult to vote. … The lines are difficult, and the timing is hard. It’s just something that you have to go do, and it’s not required.”