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Policy Solution

Creating Strong Rules for Drawing Maps

Summary: Reforming the redistricting process is not only about who draws the maps, but the rules they have to follow.

Last Updated: January 29, 2020
Published: April 5, 2019


Discus­sions about reform­ing the redis­trict­ing process often focus on the ques­tion of who draws the maps. But just as import­ant, if not more so, are the rules that map draw­ers have to follow — regard­less of whether it is a commis­sion or lawmakers draw­ing them.
Right now, in most states, there are relat­ively few rules govern­ing how lines are drawn. This is espe­cially the case for congres­sional districts. Worse, what rules there are often conflict with one another. Good-inten­tioned map draw­ers are left without guid­ance, and those who want to manip­u­late the process for polit­ical gain face few constraints block­ing them from doing so.
Provid­ing clear rules in order of prior­ity can go a long way in ensur­ing that maps reflect community input and pref­er­ences, protect minor­ity communit­ies, and are free from polit­ical manip­u­la­tion.
The good news for Amer­ic­ans inter­ested in reform­ing the process in their states is that success­ful reforms around the coun­try offer models and lessons from which to build. This annot­ated guide offers model language for build­ing strong reforms.