Formal Legal Rules That Guide the Redistricting Process

It should be remembered that some cities go beyond county boundaries; Even though counties tend to be larger than cities, strict adherence to county boundaries can mean cutting off parts of these “overflowing” cities or metropolitan areas. Redistricting is the process of redrawing state and congressional legislature boundaries every 10 years by state legislators after the ten-year U.S. census. NCSL helps prepare legislatures and others for the redistricting cycle with comprehensive information on redistricting laws, technologies and processes. NCSL collects data and information on new legislative and congressional districts. The water also receives special treatment for adjacency. In most cases, water-separated districts are contiguous when a mode of common transportation (such as a bridge or ferry road) connects both sides of the district. Island districts are generally contiguous as long as the island is part of the same district as the mainland area closest to the island or most connected to the island by this type of transport route. In Hawaii, where there is no continent to consider, the state constitution prohibits drawing “canoe districts” — counties spread over more than one large group of islands where it is necessary to use a “canoe” to travel between different parts of the county.

Finally, other criteria could define the timing of the maps, the degree of variation accepted in the population, or the data used for reclassification. For example, a handful of states adjust census data before beginning the process of deporting students or relocating incarcerated people to a home address. Most of these state provisions prohibit “unduly favouring (or discriminating) a candidate or political party, which may include both intent and effect; some, such as Florida, argue that intent to favor or disadvantage is unconscionable. Ohio law states that the statewide legislative plan cannot be signed “primarily” to favor or disadvantage any party, and separately states that the plan`s general targeting toward partisan districts should be “close” to statewide partisan political preferences. And the Regulations in Rhode Island and Washington both talk about fair and effective representation, but without much construction by state courts to make sense. Sometimes states list these restrictions in order of priority and explicitly require that the high priority criteria be met before moving on to others. Most often, however, the following principles are simply presented without explicit priorities and with instructions to follow them “to the extent possible.” In this case, the company drawing the line has the discretion to consider the criteria and resolve conflicts where they occur, as it sees fit. If the above three threshold conditions are met, the courts examine “all the circumstances” to determine whether the minority vote has been diluted and rely on the U.S.

Senate`s legislative report when the Voting Rights Act was passed. Most of these circumstances are related to the level of historical or contextual discrimination. One factor that has been highlighted as particularly important is approximate proportionality: whether minorities have the opportunity to elect representatives of their choice in a number of constituencies roughly proportional to the proportion of minority voters in the total population. Article 2 does not guarantee proportionality. But if a minority with 20 percent of a state`s eligible population could already elect representatives in 20 percent of the state`s counties, the courts will be reluctant to find a violation of Article 2 even if all three conditions are met. And if the minority does not have such an opportunity, the courts will often be more inclined to find a violation. The courts have largely articulated the meaning of section 2 after the plans have been developed and challenged, so that the above criteria are formulated retroactively. For those who draw the lines and try to avoid legal problems, the usual technique is to protect significant minorities in racially polarized areas by drawing county boundaries so that those minorities have the functional ability to elect a representative of their choice. Legislation on country-specific redistribution criteria is common.

Many of these bills propose to prohibit the use of political data or the adoption of concepts such as competitiveness. These population figures are calculated based on the total number of people in each state, including children, non-citizens, and others who are not eligible to vote. After the civil war, we amended the constitution to ensure that every person in the country is represented in the federal districts. On July 21, 2020, President Trump purported to suggest that he had the power to exclude undocumented people from the census — if valid, it would have affected not only the number of counties received by states, but also how those counties were divided within a state. The legal battle over the issue ran into procedural hurdles, as it was unclear whether the data would be ready in time for President Trump to make the decision he labeled. In the end, the data was delayed enough for the Biden administration to backtrack. As in previous decades, censuses will include all censuses for divisional purposes. The Federal Constitution sets few practical limits on redistricting bodies. Individual districts can be drawn to favor or discriminate against candidates of a particular party or individual incumbents or challengers (in fact, the court explicitly blessed the lines to protect incumbents and even those drawn for a small partisan advantage). With respect to the district plan as a whole, the Supreme Court unanimously concluded that excessive partisanship in the process is unconstitutional, but the Court also stated that federal courts cannot hear lawsuits for unreasonable partisanship because they cannot decide how much is “too much.” The U.S. Constitution requires legislative and congressional districts to be redrawn at least every 10 years using new census data to ensure equal representation, and states are accountable. As the 2020 census draws closer and closer, preparations begin in earnest.

The Constitution requires that each county have roughly the same population: each federal district within a state must have approximately the same number of people, each county within a state must have approximately the same number of people, and each local county under its jurisdiction must have approximately the same number of people. Three years before the census (and four years before drawing new maps), legislators consider the criteria or principles that guide the work. Legislative committees have adopted criteria in previous cycles to manage the potentially difficult process. The agreed criteria also help legislators to meet very complex legal requirements and ensure fairness and consistency. Certain criteria apply to all countries; Others are state-specific. However, state law increasingly restricts inappropriate bias. In 2010, only eight states directly regulated partisan outcomes in the redistricting process (instead of trying to achieve compromise or balance through the structure of the redistricting body); Now, the constitutions or statutes of 19 states speak for state districts, and 17 states do the same for congressional districts.