Redistricting Overview

The Many Ways to Re-Draw Districts

Many ways exist for electing congressional delegations and state legislatures, but every state currently does so by dividing the state into legislative districts that must be redrawn every decade after a new census. Because states create districts, they must decide how district lines will be drawn.

In many states, the state legislature draws the districts and openly does so in order to influence the likely partisan makeup of the legislature, discourage electoral competition and/or generally hurt their political enemies and help their friends. However, goals like those fly in the face of democratic values like fair representation of voters and the ability of voters to influence election results.

Who Draws Congressional Districts?  

infogram_0_congressional_drawingCongressional Redistricting//

Who Draws District Lines in State Legislatures?


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Redistricting Reforms

Redistricting reforms attempt to address the legislative tendency to undermine electoral accountability through districting. Possible redistricting reforms include: 

Where an approach relies on criteria describing districting priorities, the most common criteria used include:

Sometimes competitiveness is included as well, with the goal of creating districts that will be as evenly split in two-party partisanship as possible. Competitiveness is a controversial criterion, both because it can undermine the representation of minorities and because it requires those drawing the lines to actively consider the impact of the districts on electoral outcomes. Often, those drawing the lines are explicitly forbidden from considering partisanship data, like voter registration levels or voting histories, or incumbents’ places of residence.


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