How Does Redistricting Affect You?

By Debbie Wuthnow

How Does Redistricting Affect You?

Last year, I wrote to you about the power of “politicians with pencils and erasers"—state officials elected in 2020 who would be in charge of redrawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries. Voters across the country will experience the effects of this redistricting in next year’s primary elections.

Why does redistricting occur?

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the country every 10 years. Based on the population changes revealed in the 2020 census, two things happen:

  • First, states that gained enough population get more Members of Congress (more members of the House of Representatives). Since the number of U.S. representatives is fixed at 435, states that lost enough population lose Members of Congress. This process is called “reapportionment.”
  • Second, states must redraw U.S. congressional districts—“redistrict”—in response to these gains or losses and also to accommodate population shifts within the state itself. They must also redraw state legislative districts. This process is occurring right now in many states.

Who determines where the lines are drawn? In most states, the state legislature draws the new lines for congressional and state legislative districts. In some states, the work of redrawing the district maps is done by a separate commission; depending on the state, the legislature may have some input on determining who sits on the redistricting commission.

The effects of reapportionment

We already mentioned that reapportionment may affect how many U.S. representatives your state can have in Congress. Because the number of presidential electors allotted to each state is based on the number of U.S. representatives, reapportionment also affects how many seats in the Electoral College are allotted to each state. This reapportionment will apply to every upcoming presidential election until 2030.

The effects of redistricting

One historical trait of the redistricting process is that boundaries are often drawn in ways that attempt to affect the outcome of the next election in that district. This attempt, which can result in oddly-shaped districts, is referred to as “gerrymandering.” Depending on the political views of the voters in the surrounding area, boundary lines may be drawn in an attempt to produce a favorable outcome for the current elected official representing that district. Other times, the lines are drawn to give a candidate from a different political party a greater chance of being elected. For instance, since North Carolina's Congressional District 12 was established after the census in 1990, its shape has been modified greatly to remain a Democratic stronghold.

After your district map is redrawn, you may reside in a new district with a new representative. You may have different candidates on your ballot next year. Even if you still reside in the same district, its geographical borders might now include voters who hold different political persuasions than you.

Redistricting makes primary elections more important.

Redistricting can affect what party is likely to win a redrawn district. For example, if a district is drawn to include a vast majority of Democratic voters, the winner of the General Election will very likely be from that party. Therefore, the winner of the Democratic primary election—between rival Democrats running for the same office—will often be the individual who wins in November and takes office the following year.

The primary elections for both parties are therefore of utmost importance. Because primary elections are between candidates from the same party, it can be hard to distinguish where they land on the ideological scale. (For example, it is not unusual for every Republican candidate to claim to be “the most conservative” in the race.) iVoterGuide finds and collects data to help you know what these primary candidates truly believe.

Whether your district changes or not, we will always provide information on the candidates on your personal ballot. iVoterGuide is here to help you stay informed on who your candidates are and what they believe. As we move into the 2022 election season, our goal is for you to be an informed voter. . . confident that you’re choosing the candidates who will best represent you and your values.

Thank you for using us as a trusted source of information.

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