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This guide provides members of the media with inform­a­tion and tools to bring public aware­ness to a process that is frequently obscure and opaque. The Guide offers a compre­hens­ive yet compre­hens­ible discus­sion of redis­trict­ing issues, inform­a­tion on how redis­trict­ing is conduc­ted in each state, and compar­ison charts of vari­ous redis­trict­ing meth­ods.

 

Intro­duc­tion

Before it even began, this redis­trict­ing cycle prom­ised to be very differ­ent from any before. Large popu­la­tion shifts from the Midw­est and North­east to the South and South­w­est, signi­fic­ant growth in the Latino popu­la­tion, sweep­ing mid-term Repub­lican victor­ies, a new citizen’s redis­trict­ing commis­sion in Cali­for­nia, and tech­no­lo­gical advances that allow the public to play a more prom­in­ent role than ever before all mean this round of redis­trict­ing will create wide­spread curi­os­ity and interest.

As is well known, redis­trict­ing often devolves into a naked bid for partisan advant­age. At times of partisan stale­mate, the two parties some­times opt for safety, cutting deals in what NYU professor Samuel Issachar­off has labeled “polit­ical cartels.”1 This year, sharp swings to Repub­lican control in numer­ous state­houses mean that this redis­trict­ing cycle may have a signi­fic­ant partisan impact going forward.

As the media explores these new and note­worthy events, there is an under­ly­ing story that merits telling: that redis­trict­ing has real consequences for communit­ies and how they are repres­en­ted in our govern­ment. We encour­age the media to cover not just the drama of polit­ical infight­ing and territ­orial battles, but also to discover the public interest story of how district lines can embrace or divide the communit­ies that make up our coun­try, and determ­ine whether and how communit­ies have a cohes­ive voice in our demo­cracy.

The process for redraw­ing district lines is obscure, tech­nical and varies from state to state. It is often done behind closed doors, far from the public eye. We assume that this is inev­it­ably the exclus­ive realm of party bosses and savvy oper­at­ives – and that it always has been, and always will be that way. Perhaps. But few decisions made by elec­ted offi­cials have as last­ing an impact on the way we are governed. Secret­ive and unfair redis­trict­ing can tilt the terrain on which decisions get made. We all have an oblig­a­tion to try to crack open the doors of the process. There is a tremend­ous story to be told, and the media can play a vital role in telling it.

We hope this Guide gives the media inform­a­tion and tools to open the doors and bring public aware­ness and, where needed, scru­tiny to a process that is frequently obscure and opaque. The Guide offers a compre­hens­ive yet compre­hens­ible discus­sion of redis­trict­ing issues, inform­a­tion on how redis­trict­ing is conduc­ted in each state, and compar­ison charts of vari­ous redis­trict­ing meth­ods. Through­out the Guide, we suggest things to look for as you cover the issue.

Before it even began, this redis­trict­ing cycle prom­ised to be very differ­ent from any before. Large popu­la­tion shifts from the Midw­est and North­east to the South and South­w­est, signi­fic­ant growth in the Latino popu­la­tion, sweep­ing mid-term Repub­lican victor­ies, a new citizen’s redis­trict­ing commis­sion in Cali­for­nia, and tech­no­lo­gical advances that allow the public to play a more prom­in­ent role than ever before all mean this round of redis­trict­ing will create wide­spread curi­os­ity and interest.
As is well known, redis­trict­ing often devolves into a naked bid for partisan advant­age. At times of partisan stale­mate, the two parties some­times opt for safety, cutting deals in what NYU professor Samuel Issachar­off has labeled “polit­ical cartels.”1 This year, sharp swings to Repub­lican control in numer­ous state­houses mean that this redis­trict­ing cycle may have a signi­fic­ant partisan impact going forward.
As the media explores these new and note­worthy events, there is an under­ly­ing story that merits telling: that redis­trict­ing has real consequences for communit­ies and how they are repres­en­ted in our govern­ment. We encour­age the media to cover not just the drama of polit­ical infight­ing and territ­orial battles, but also to discover the public interest story of how district lines can embrace or divide the communit­ies that make up our coun­try, and determ­ine whether and how communit­ies have a cohes­ive voice in our demo­cracy.
The process for redraw­ing district lines is obscure, tech­nical and varies from state to state. It is often done behind closed doors, far from the public eye. We assume that this is inev­it­ably the exclus­ive realm of party bosses and savvy oper­at­ives – and that it always has been, and always will be that way. Perhaps. But few decisions made by elec­ted offi­cials have as last­ing an impact on the way we are governed. Secret­ive and unfair redis­trict­ing can tilt the terrain on which decisions get made. We all have an oblig­a­tion to try to crack open the doors of the process. There is a tremend­ous story to be told, and the media can play a vital role in telling it.
We hope this Guide gives the media inform­a­tion and tools to open the doors and bring public aware­ness and, where needed, scru­tiny to a process that is frequently obscure and opaque. The Guide offers a compre­hens­ive yet compre­hens­ible discus­sion of redis­trict­ing issues, inform­a­tion on how redis­trict­ing is conduc­ted in each state, and compar­ison charts of vari­ous redis­trict­ing meth­ods. Through­out the Guide, we suggest things to look for as you cover the issue.