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Redistricting

Every ten years, voting districts are reassigned based off of census data. This process is called redistricting and the outcome of these decisions can impact the weight of your votes on the state and federal level. This article dives deeper into the reasons why you should care.

Illustration by Amy Zhao


By Benjamin Qiao and Emma Lin

6 February 2022

 
Voting Districts

There are four types of voting districts: statewide districts, congressional districts, state legislative districts, and local government districts.


Statewide districts determine the groups of voters who choose the president, vice-president, the U.S. senate, and state offices like the governor, lieutenant governor, state comptroller, and state attorney general.


Congressional districts dictate the boundaries where the House of Representatives are from and are divided by population. Voters in each district elect their member of the House of Representatives.


State legislative districts include state senate districts and state assembly districts. Members of each district elect a senator and an assembly member respectively.


Cities or counties that have their own legislative body, including Fremont, have a fourth voting district called local government districts. In the case of Fremont, residents from each district elect a representative called a councilor.

 

Redistricting is the process of dividing the districts where citizens elect public officials, and it happens every ten years. This is done to accommodate population changes and ensure districts have an approximately equal population so everyone can have an equal vote.


Gerrymandering:

When redistricting is conducted suitably, it is lawful and impartial. However, if redistricting is done poorly in a district, voters will not have fair representation. The process of manipulating redistricting to favor a political party is called gerrymandering. Gerrymandering can be done in two different ways, packing and cracking.


By “cracking”, or maintaining the minority of one group within districts, their votes will be overpowered by the majority in their respective districts. The electoral college system that is all or nothing renders the minority powerless.


By “packing” all the people with the same political views into one district, all of that party’s political power is centralized in a small area so the electoral college system would count all of their votes as only one, decreasing their influence.

North Carolina:

An example of the effects of gerrymandering is North Carolina where democratic support was partially packed into several districts and the rest was spread out. This helped the Republicans win 10 of 13 U.S. House votes, even though they only got 50% of the vote statewide.

 

Federal:

  • The districts must have as similar populations as possible; populations are based on the most recent Federal census (Incarcerated persons are counted by their last known place of residence)

  • A redistricting plan cannot be used by a covered jurisdiction unless that jurisdiction can show that the plan does not have a discriminatory purpose nor will have any discriminatory effect.

  • Election districts may not be drawn such that members of a certain race are in the minority in that district

California Laws:

  • The districts have to be contiguous so that all parts of the district are connected to each other

  • The districts should not divide neighborhoods and communities of interest (a group of people with common sets of concerns)

  • Districts should have easily identifiable boundaries, like highways, shopping centers, and parks.

  • The distance between all parts of a district should be minimized

  • Districts should not be drawn to favor or oppose a political party

Other Goals:

  • Account for future population growth

  • Minimize changes to election cycles caused by district changes

  • Respect voters’ choices

  • Maintain previous districts to the extent possible

There are public hearing during the entire redistricting process where people can submit their proposed maps for consideration and also testify in defence of their preferences. If you are interested you can visit the official website of your local government and participate in upcoming hearings.







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