Skip to main content

10 Things You Should Know About Redistricting

Every 10 years, after the collection of the decennial census data, states redraw their state and congressional district lines. These districts determine how communities are represented at the local, state, and federal levels. The redistricting process is fundamental in influencing how our government works for us. 

Here are 10 things you should know about it: 

  1. Redistricting is the process in which congressional and legislative districts are drawn to determine how communities are represented. These districts are redrawn every 10 years based on census data.  

  1. Redistricting determines who appears on your ballot, where you can vote, and can influence whether your elected officials respond to your needs.  

  1. Redistricting is how we make sure our voices are represented equally by creating districts that have nearly the same number of people in it. To create districts of equal population, we use the census. One of the first steps for fair maps is to ensure we have an accurate and complete count of the census.  Fill out the census so that your community is counted!  

  1.  Redistricting is vulnerable to gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the intentional manipulation of the redistricting process by the people in political power to keep or change political power. This can happen in a number of ways, such as by consolidating communities into one district, which gives that community only one representative in the legislature. Or by dividing the community across districts and ensuring that the community is always the minority and less likely to be adequately represented by their representatives. Gerrymandering often protects incumbents and reduces the competitiveness of districts which can lead to depressed voter turnout when voters lose faith in their ability to effect change.  Two common forms of gerrymandering are racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering.  

  1. Racial Gerrymandering is the intentional manipulation of the redistricting process to reduce the political power of a certain racial group. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protected voters against racial gerrymandering by requiring states to prove their changes to voting systems, including redistricting, do not have a discriminatory effect. Today, we still often see it show up when states draw maps.  

  1. Partisan gerrymandering is when districts are drawn in a way to give an unfair advantage to one political party, group, or incumbent. In 2018, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to set federal standards when states draw their districts that could ultimately curb partisan gerrymandering. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled to allow states to make their own determinations about partisan gerrymandering practices. We know that oftentimes, partisan gerrymandering is used as a way for politicians to get away with racial gerrymandering

  1. We can curb gerrymandering through increased public input, accountability, and transparent processes. The redistricting process varies from state to state. Some states have independent redistricting commissions that draw maps, while others have their maps drawn by politicians and legislators, and others fall somewhere in between. To ensure that the redistricting process is fair and doesn’t lead to racial or partisan gerrymandering, it is necessary to have opportunity for public input and accountability into the map-drawing process. The League of Women Voters is using a variety of methods to reform the redistricting process in states and increase opportunities for people to have a voice in how their districts are drawn. 

  1. This is a particularly critical year. In 2013, the Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder took away the requirement for states to get their changes to voting processes, such as the redistricting process, cleared by the Department of Justice. This means 2021 will be the first year of redistricting without the full protections of the VRA. Learn more about how the Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the protections of the VRA.  

  1. Some states have redistricting reform on the ballot this year! Virginians and Missourians have the opportunity to vote for fair maps in the November 3 election! Find out more about what is on the ballot in both states here.  

  1. The next redistricting cycle is upon us, and you can get involved. Through the People Powered Fair Maps ™ campaign, Leagues in every state and DC are committed to ensuring that we have fair maps for the next redistricting cycle. Connect with your local League to advocate for fair maps in your state! There will be opportunities in many states for the public to have a voice in the map-drawing process. You can follow our People Powered Fair Maps™ campaign to stay updated on future action items! 

Want to learn more? Join the League of Women Voters of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia to learn about how racial gerrymandering acts as a form of voter suppression on October 8th at 7 pm ET at our event, Racism and Redistricting: How Unfair Maps Impact Communities of Color