Redistricting 101

November 4, 2009

Members of Congress, state legislators, and many city council and school board members are elected from districts.  At least once per decade, the district lines are redrawn, block by block.

The way that district lines are drawn puts voters together in groups — some voters are kept together in one district and others are separated into different districts.  And in our system, whichever group has more votes within a district usually decides which representative wins.  

The way the lines are drawn can keep a community together or split it apart, changing whether it has representatives who feel responsible for its concerns.  The way the lines are drawn can impact who wins an election. Ultimately, the way the lines are drawn can change who controls the governing body, and can change which policies get passed into law.  

  • Redistricting Matters. Click here to learn about some serious problems that can occur during the redistricting process.
  • Who draws the lines? In most states, the legislature has the power to draw the lines for both congressional and state redistricting. Click here to read more about your states' laws. See sidebar for our specific state-by-state work.     
  • The importance of minority representation. Many redistricting techniques, sadly, have been abused in order to dilute minority voting power. Click here to learn more about how the redistricting process affects minority communities and Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
  • How to draw the lines? Click here for a step-by-step guide on how to draw lines.
  • What can you do? Citizens and community organizations can influence the redistricting process, even within the status quo, to ensure better representation. Click here to learn what you can do to influence the process.

To learn more about redistricting:

View a powerpoint presentation on redistricting here, and view a 90-minute curriculum for advocates here.