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Redistricting and Census Bill Roundup 2020

The Brennan Center’s redistricting and census bill roundup catalogs new legislation relating to the next round of redistricting in 2021.

Published: February 27, 2020

In 2021, every state in the nation will draw new congres­sional and legis­lat­ive districts. This makes 2020 a pivotal year for passing new laws that could curb gerry­man­der­ing and ensure that maps are drawn in a fair and trans­par­ent way.

As of Febru­ary 26, lawmakers are consid­er­ing at least 213 redis­trict­ing or census-related bills and resol­u­tions in 33 states, 118 of which have been intro­duced in recent weeks. Of these:

  • 105 propos­als would create new redis­trict­ing commis­sions
  • 17 propos­als would estab­lish new criteria to guide how lines are drawn
  • 7 propos­als would increase public account­ab­il­ity and trans­par­ency in map draw­ing
  • 20 propos­als would end prison gerry­man­der­ing

The remain­ing bills cover a number of redis­trict­ing and census-related topics, includ­ing, but not limited to, propos­als to modify judi­cial redis­trict­ing, to prohibit at-large elec­tions at the local level, and to mandate the use of certain computers or soft­ware for redis­trict­ing.

Where Redistricting and Census Bills Have Been Introduced

As of February 26, 2020, including relevant carry-over bills from 2019


Redistricting/Census Bills Introduced

Redis­trict­ing Commis­sions Top the List of Reforms Across the Coun­try

Propos­als to create redis­trict­ing commis­sions are the most common types of redis­trict­ing reform being considered in 2020 legis­lat­ive sessions.

These propos­als fall into the follow­ing categor­ies:

  • Inde­pend­ent commis­sions are made up of citizens who are neither public offi­cials nor current lawmakers and are selec­ted through a process conduc­ted by an entity inde­pend­ent of the legis­lature and polit­ical party lead­er­ship. Inde­pend­ent commis­sions draw and approve the final maps. Lawmakers have intro­duced 18 propos­als to create inde­pend­ent commis­sions.
  • Polit­ical appointee commis­sions have members directly appoin­ted by elec­ted offi­cials, party lead­er­ship, or polit­ical party commit­tees. Commis­sion­ers are then respons­ible for draw­ing and approv­ing the final maps. Lawmakers have intro­duced 13 propos­als to create polit­ical appointee commis­sions.
  • Advis­ory commis­sions draw maps in the first instance but ulti­mately send redis­trict­ing plans to the legis­lature for approval. Lawmakers have intro­duced 73 propos­als to create advis­ory commis­sions.

Other note­worthy policy propos­als that would change the map-draw­ing process include:

  • Criteria to guide map draw­ing outline the prior­it­ies for draft­ing districts as well as any prohib­i­tions (such as consid­er­ing the addresses of incum­bents) that may not be considered. Lawmakers have intro­duced 17 propos­als to change map-draw­ing criteria.
  • Public account­ab­il­ity and trans­par­ency meas­ures build in oppor­tun­it­ies for the public to be involved in the redis­trict­ing process and play a vital watch­dog role over proceed­ings. Lawmakers have intro­duced 7 propos­als to increase trans­par­ency.
  • Ending prison gerry­man­der­ing involves count­ing people who are incar­cer­ated in their home community and not their loca­tion of incar­cer­a­tion for purposes of redis­trict­ing. Lawmakers have intro­duced 20 propos­als, one of which was signed into law by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Janu­ary 21, and one of which was passed by the Color­ado legis­lature on Febru­ary 25.

Bill High­lights

In New Hamp­shireHB 1665 would create an advis­ory commis­sion to help the legis­lature draw the state’s congres­sional, state legis­lat­ive, county commis­sion, and exec­ut­ive coun­cil lines. The bill, currently under the consid­er­a­tion of the House Elec­tion Law commit­tee, would also put clear map-draw­ing rules into place to expli­citly ban partisan gerry­man­der­ing and emphas­ize keep­ing towns and communit­ies of interest together.

In Wash­ing­ton, lawmakers are push­ing for reform that would mean­ing­fully improve the process by increas­ing trans­par­ency and public parti­cip­a­tion. HB 2575, which passed the state house on Febru­ary 19, would require Wash­ing­ton’s bipar­tisan polit­ical appointee commis­sion to estab­lish a website, hold public hear­ings across the state, and issue a report along­side final plans.

Bill Lowlight

In MissouriRepub­lican lawmakers have made clear their inten­tion to undo the redis­trict­ing  reforms that voters approved in a 2018 land­slide elec­tion. SJR 38 is moving quickly and passed the state senate on Febru­ary 10. The amend­ment would repeal the role of the nonpar­tisan state demo­grapher, weaken protec­tions for communit­ies of color, and make it harder for Missouri­ans to chal­lenge unfair maps in court. The amend­ment also opens the door to equal­iz­ing state legis­lat­ive districts based on adult citizens rather than the state’s total popu­la­tion—a prac­tice aimed at dimin­ish­ing the polit­ical power of communit­ies with young famil­ies and more noncit­izens. And state legis­lat­ive redis­trict­ing would be returned to the hands of a partisan polit­ical appointee commis­sion that failed to pass a map in 2011.

Citizen-Led Ballot Meas­ures

In addi­tion, citizens in 24 states have the power to reform the redis­trict­ing process by ballot initi­at­ive, either through citizen-initi­ated consti­tu­tional amend­ments or stat­utory changes. Voters in Michigan, Missouri, and Utah passed redis­trict­ing reforms this way in 2018.

So far this year, citizens in Arkan­sasNevadaOklahoma, and Oregon have filed poten­tial ballot meas­ures to bring inde­pend­ent redis­trict­ing commis­sions to their states. While signa­ture gath­er­ing is under­way in Arkan­sas, court chal­lenges in Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon have slowed efforts to get reform on the 2020 ballot. After an initial court chal­lenge to the proposed reform in Nevada, reformers submit­ted a modi­fied version of the meas­ure in line with the state court’s ruling. That decision was appealed in an attempt to again disqual­ify the peti­tion. Reformers in Oregon received approval to start gath­er­ing signa­tures on three poten­tial propos­als in late Janu­ary, but these certi­fic­a­tions were appealed to the Oregon supreme court, where decisions are still pending. And after the ballot text of the Oklahoma proposal was struck down by a state court in Febru­ary, reformers submit­ted modi­fied text now await­ing approval from the secret­ary of state.

For more inform­a­tion, please visit our Redis­trict­ing Reform project.