TABLE OF CONTENTS

Every ten years, California redraws the lines of our political landscape. These lines can strengthen or diminish your voice in Washington, Sacramento, or downtown.

Cracking, packing, and gerrymandering are ways that lines on maps have been used to politically neutralize communities and their interests. To ensure this doesn’t happen to your community, you’ll need to engage and tell the story of your community - its boundaries, its needs, what makes it unique.

This website puts the power of maps and line drawing directly in your hands. It will help you take a seat at the table in this round of redistricting.

Access Data Draw Your Lines NEWS:
We are now turning our attention to support community engagement in local redistricting. See below for a list of local lines you can analyze and redraw!

See statewide lines
View and analyze the final certified lines from the Citizens Redistricting Commission for Congressional, Senate, Assembly, and BOE districts.
See local lines
View and analyze the existing and/or proposed lines for various city, county, or school district boundaries.
INTERESTED IN A CITY, COUNTY, OR SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT WE DON'T HAVE?
Simply send us an email request and we will explore how we might get those lines onto the REDRAW system!
 
 
REDISTRICTING HELPS ENSURE THAT EVERY VOTER IS EQUALLY REPRESENTED

The short answer: You have local knowledge about your community that can help make political districts more responsive to your needs. Redistricting, when done properly, helps ensure that every voter is equally represented. Do people in your community have particular needs like more hospitals or language assistance? Have residents rallied around issues such as improving schools or commerce? Are there traditions or special events that bring everyone together? By adding your unique perspective to the discussion, you can let other organizations, interest groups,  and the Citizens Redistricting Commission know about key considerations to keep in mind when drawing lines for your district.

The key:
one person gets
one vote

onetoone

The process also needs to take into account contiguity, compactness, and political and geographic boundaries:

* Compactness is a key consideration in the redistricting process. Generally, a compact district would have a fairly regular shape (like a circle or square) without a lot of offshoots or tendrils. However, there are multiple methods for defining compactness, and many existing districts do not conform to a regular shape. The California Constitution was amended in 2008 to read “to the extent practicable… districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness such that nearby areas of population are not bypassed for more distant population.”

Redistricting is the process of redrawing the district lines for various political offices. Redistricting happens every ten years, and is based on Census data. At its most basic, redistricting tries to make sure that every district has equal population. This is to uphold the “one person, one vote” principal. (For instance, if District A and District B each elect one representative, but District A has 50,000 people in it while District B has 100,000 people in it, you could say that the people in District A have twice the voting power of the people in District B.)

In California, the newly formed Citizens Redistricting Commission (or CRC) oversees the statewide redistricting process. They have made compliance with the Voting Rights Act one of their top priorities when redrawing district lines, second only to maintaining equal population between districts. Additionally, the process also needs to take into account contiguity and communities/cities/counties. Lastly, the Commission can consider drawing districts that are geographically compact, and lining up the boundaries of smaller districts with larger districts where possible (nesting).

The Voting Rights Act became law in 1965 and, overall, it has been tremendously successful in giving minorities the political voice they were long denied in America. It has not only ushered in a new era of minority voting rights and civic participation, but has also dramatically increased electoral representation for many minority communities. Because of protections afforded by the Voting Rights Act, minority communities throughout the country have been better able to elect representatives of their choice who can more effectively advocate for their interests.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits drawing district lines that discriminate on the basis of "race, color, or membership in a protected language minority group.” In other words, district lines can’t be drawn to diminish a minority community’s ability to elect a candidate of its choice, thereby protecting minority opportunity districts. However, the US Supreme Court’s 2009 Bartlett v. Strickland decision ruled that a minority group must be more than 50% of its citizens voting age population for a district (or potential district) to now qualify for protection under the VRA.

This is where the concept of "communities of interest" (or COI’s) can come into play. COIs are broadly defined as a group of people in a specific geographic area who share similar interests and priorities. Historically, federal courts have given consideration to COI’s when reviewing redistricting plans and California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission has lifted up COI’s a key criteria in their map drawing. But what does this mean?

It turns out that it can mean just about anything, from people who all live in a rural area to people who share similar living standards to people who all suffer from poorly run schools or lack of hospitals. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, by locating voters with similar interests in the same district, they can hold their representatives accountable to their specific needs. If redistricting breaks people with similar interests into many different districts, their voices are diluted, and they will be less able to seek responsive representation in government. Making sure that voters with similar interests are kept together as communities of interest is a very important way to prevent this from happening.

Voting Rights Act  
fig. 1 The Voting Rights Act prohibits drawing discriminatory district lines

A Community of interest can be Defined By:

geography

economics

religion

partisan

Good question! Even though federal law states that communities of interests (or COIs) have been an important part of the redistricting process, there’s actually no clear legal definition of what makes a COI. But the Brennan Center for Justice broadly defines COIs as:

“a group of people concentrated in a geographic area who share similar interests and priorities – whether social, cultural, ethnic, economic, religious, or political.”
The first thing to consider is the importance of geographic concentration when it comes to defining a community of interest. Second, given this broad definition, COIs can be seen as groups of people that share a need for safer streets or cleaner parks or better schools. It can also refer to those that live in the same towns or historic neighborhoods, or folks that celebrate a shared history or sense of community. A COI can be defined by any (and combination of) characteristic that makes a place unique, whole, and not something you want to split up during the redistricting process.

In California, the State Constitution specifies that COIs “shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.” It further states that:

“A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process. ”
-Section 2(d)(4) of Article XXI of the California Constitution
– basically, people who have shared interests. The Constitution gives some examples of what this might mean, but this is not an exhaustive list. There is still a lot of room to define your community’s interests in whatever way makes sense in this round of redistricting.

Communities of Interest  
fig. 2 Communities of interest can be determined by many different factors

The independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) is made up of:

CRC

Learn more about the commissioners here

March: Censes data released

March-August: public hearings

August 15: final plans are drawn!

In the past, the State Legislature drew the state and congressional district lines. In 2008, California voters passed Proposition Eleven, which created an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The Commission is a 14-person commission that is made up of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 people not affiliated with the two major parties. The Commission was originally established to draw California’s district lines for the California State Assembly, the California State Legislature, and the Board of Equalization. Voters expanded the role with the passage of Proposition Twenty so the Commission also redraws the US congressional districts for California.

The CRC is taking extraordinary measures to ensure that all Californians have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the redistricting process. Over the next few months, the Commission will be holding hearings around California to take input from Californians like you. Participation in the process is easier than ever before – people can testify in front of the Commission to state their case for how they think district lines should be drawn in their community, and argue what constitutes a community of interest. The Commission will be conducting public hearings in every region of the state, and will also allow citizens to email or mail in testimony if they can’t attend a hearing. The latest hearing schedule is posted here: http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/hearings.html

The CRC is also taking unprecedented steps to ensure full transparency in the redistricting process. They will not only listen to testimony and take comments on the draft maps they create, but will ultimately have to present their full rationale for their line-drawing decisions. All deliberation on the maps much happen in public hearings and all draft maps must be posted for a full 14 days to allow the public to see and respond to proposals.

The redistricting process is already under way, and final plans have to be drawn by August 15, 2011! For more information on the CRC and to find out when hearings and events are being held, visit www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

What criteria must the Citizens Redistricting Commission consider when drawing district lines?

According to the California Constitution, the Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) must draw maps that follow these criteria in this order of priority:

  1. 1) Equal population (following the “one person, one vote” principal)
  2. 2) Compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA)
  3. 3) Contiguity
  4. 4) Political boundaries, neighborhoods and communities of interest
  5. 5) Compactness (lesser priority)
  6. 6) Nesting (lesser priority)

Additionally, the California Constitution states that the CRC cannot take into consideration the place of resident of an incumbent or candidate, and that districts

“shall not be drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against an incumbent, political candidate, or political party.”
[Article XXI, SEC. 2(d)] 

Here are some tricks to watch out for:

cracking

packing

tacking

Why is the redistricting process important?

Redistricting, when done properly, helps ensure that every voter is equally represented. This doesn’t just mean that districts have about the same number of people in them (though that’s important too). It also means that the process should make sure that elected representatives will be responsive to the specific needs of voters in their districts.

How does redistricting do this? When people with similar interests are put into the same district, residents can hold their representatives accountable to their needs. If redistricting breaks people with similar interests into many different districts, their voices are diluted, and they will be less able to seek responsive representation in government.

What’s the worst that could happen?

In the past, many techniques have been used to minimize competition for incumbents and/or disenfranchise specific groups of voters. Now that California has established the Citizens Redistricting Commission to increase the transparency of the redistricting process, it’s up to the citizens to make sure that none of the shenanigans that occurred in the past happen in 2011.

What type of problems have happened in the past?

Excluding or protecting incumbents: In the past when legislators were in charge of redistricting, many took advantage of the rules and drew lines based on self-interest and not on the needs of their constituents. For instance, incumbents worried about a potential challenger (often from their own party) drew the lines to make it more difficult for the challenger to compete in the next election. (This can be done by picking voters likely to vote for the incumbent, or even by excluding the challenger’s house from their district.) In other instances, legislators of the party in power drew lines that made it difficult for incumbents from the opposing party to maintain their seat in the next election.

Packing, cracking, or tacking by party: Occasionally legislators will pack, crack or tack partisan voters. For example, “packing” all historically Republican voters in an area into one district, allowing for the surrounding districts to be Democratic. They might also “crack” historically Democratic voters within an area into several different districts, thereby diluting their voting strength. Finally, there are examples of “tacking” on partisan voters by extending the geography of a district to include an historic stronghold of one particular party, thereby increasing that party’s voting power in that district.

Gerrymandering-dallas
fig. 3 gerrymandering in action

Packing, cracking, or tacking by ethnicity: Historically, legislators would attempt to disenfranchise minority voters through similar packing, cracking and tacking techniques as well. By participating in or monitoring the public hearings held by California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, you can help prevent such packing, cracking, tacking and disenfranchisement through your testimony and mapping of communities of interest.

By participating in or monitoring the public hearings held by California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, you can help prevent such packing, cracking, tacking and disenfranchisement through your testimony and mapping of communities of interest.

Gerrymandering-Virginia  
fig. 4 gerrymandering in action, continued

You Can offer your local knowledge to the redistricting process

Census and election data do not tell the entire story of a community, but that’s what usually gets used when drawing district lines. You have specialized, local knowledge about where you live. By adding your unique perspective to the discussion, you can let organizations, coalitions, and the Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) know about special considerations to keep in mind when drawing lines for your district.

Your local knowledge can help define communities of interest in your neighborhood. California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission has ranked keeping communities of interests together as one of their highest priorities when redrawing the lines. COIs are broadly defined as a group of people in a specific geographic area who share similar interest and priorities. But what does this mean? It turns out it can mean just about anything, from people who live in a rural area to people who share similar living standards to people who all use the same transit system.

If community members identify and communicate their shared needs to the CRC, they can provide more "on-the-ground" knowledge than that of the Census. By self-identifying as a COI, communities can challenge the conventional power structure and make sure that their voices are heard and their needs are met in the future. Most of all, there is a clear line between a well-articulated COI and the ability for a community to keep its elected representatives accountable to shared needs within that district.

Organizations can help aggregate local knowledge – and aggregated local knowledge is powerful.

Grassroots organizations also have local knowledge about the issues facing the communities they serve. If your organization deals with people who can’t find affordable housing, struggle with a low-performing public school system, or suffer from high unemployment, you can aggregate the experiences of your clients and members and share this knowledge. One person’s knowledge is meaningful, but the weight of many people’s knowledge is powerful.

Local Knowledge
fig. 5 Local knowledge is REAL KNOWLEDGE

Coalitions can help build unity across racial and party lines.

More and more, the issues facing our communities cross racial and political lines. Finding solutions to these larger problems may require more multi-racial and multi-partisan perspectives and voices. This more transparent redistricting process with a focus on communities of interest opens up the opportunity for inclusive “unity” coalitions that can argue for shared needs according to shared living standards and economic and social conditions, instead of just along racial or political lines. Then, these coalitions can demand accountability from redistricting officials and other decision-makers. Multi-group coalitions formed around shared interests are also likely to carry more weight and therefore more heavily influence the redistricting process to encourage representation of those historically under-represented.

Aggregated Knowledge  
fig. 6 Aggregated knowledge is powerful!

Lots of places!

These web sites offer information on redistricting in California

  • *wedrawthelines.ca.gov is the State’s official web site where you can learn more about the Independent Redistricting Commission, including hearing dates.
  • *Redistricting CA is an alliance of non-profits working to ensure the 2011 redistricting process is fair and inclusive.
  • *Common Cause, a political advocacy organization, has information on redistricting reform in California.
  • *The League of Women Voters also has information on California’s redistricting process.
    • These organizations offer overviews on redistricting in general

    • *The Brennan Center for Justice created an extensive overview of the redistricting process in 2008.
    • *The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund & National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium worked together to produce a guide to redistricting in 2000.(PDF)
    • *Watch The Greenlining Institute's short video presentation on California Redistricting 2011 and what's at stake for communities of color.

     
 
SHARE KNOWLEDGE, IDEAS AND DATA

The short answer: ReDrawCA.org gives you the tools to share knowledge about your community’s needs, research and map key redistricting data, and share ideas with other community members or grassroots organizations. You can also draw your own district lines, and then, see how different data indicators in your proposed district stack up against the data from the existing district. It also allows you to collaborate with other people or organizations to re-draw district boundaries, and then share your maps and data. And if you want to testify to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, ReDrawCA gives you the tools to communicate your local knowledge to the CRC in a way they can easily understand, and gives you access to the data that can help back up your argument. It’s free, easy to use, and tutorials and technical assistance are available!

COMMUNICATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON
A WIKI-MAP
Sharing is Caring
fig. 7 Use Comment on CA to share your knowledge!

ReDrawCA’s “Comment on CA” tool allows you to easily tag and label places on a map of California, so you can share information about your community and its needs. Either drop a pin on a specific place, or draw a shape around a neighborhood, community or region, then write in a few words about what makes this place important in the redistricting process. All it takes is a couple of minutes – you don’t even need to register with the site! By adding your unique perspective to the map, you can help define communities of interest, and let a broad range of stakeholders in the process know about special considerations to keep in mind when redrawing your district lines.

When the CRC releases its first draft plan on June 9, “Comment on CA” will upload that draft (and subsequent CRC drafts) and allow you to comment directly onto the plan. This will be a good opportunity to directly comment on the CRC’s drafts and suggest changes before it becomes final!
LAUNCH “COMMENT ON CA” tool 

MAP MANY INDICATORS ACROSS CALIFORNIA, INCLUDING:

  • 1. Total Population
  • 2. Age
  • 3. Voting Age Population
  • 4. Race/Ethnicity
  • 5. Foreign-born (incl. citizenship status)
  • 6. Language spoken at home
  • 7. Marital Status
  • 8. Registered Voters (by party, by general election, by election/party
  • 9. Presidential, Gov in ‘92, ‘98, ‘00, ’02, ‘04, ‘08, ‘10 elections
  • 10. Votes on Prop. 209 and 8
  • 11. Educational Attainment
  • 12. School Test Scores and student demographics
  • 13. Median Household Income
  • 14. Poverty Status
  • 15. Renter v. Owner Occupied
  • 16. Banks v check cashing
  • 17. CBOs
  • ...and many more!

research
fig. 8 Research!

RESEARCH information about the areas important to you.

ReDrawCA’s “Access Data” tool lets you take a closer look at what the data says about your district and your community. You can start by viewing data that is typically considered during the redistricting process: total population, citizen voting age population, and race/ethnicity. View this data by census block, block group, tract, ZIP code, city, county, or by current congressional, state assembly or state senate districts. Then, investigate and map other data sets that can help you articulate and define your community of interest, including educational attainment, poverty rates, and home ownership levels. Finally, add points of interest to your map like the location of public schools, non-profits, banks, child care centers and alcohol outlets.
LAUNCH “ACCESS DATA” tool

DRAW the boundaries of your own community of interest or district.

Once you've researched the data, ReDrawCA’s “Draw Your Lines” tool lets you look at existing district lines, and then modify them based on your research or local knowledge. Once you’ve changed the district lines, you can then compare how the different data variables in your proposed district stack up against the data from the existing district. The interface is designed to highlight the critical variables you need to keep in mind while drawing a new district (such as total population, party affiliation and ethnicity) while allowing you to crunch other community data. You can save your district ideas, email them to others for feedback, or print up a full report (saved as a Word document on your computer) to take to a meeting or to a public hearing of the Commission.
LAUNCH “DRAW YOUR LINES” tool

LEARN what other people are saying.

With ReDrawCA’s “Comment on CA” tool, you can learn about what matters to individuals in their communities. This tool functions like a “wiki-map” that allows anyone to easily tag and label a place or area, and leave comments on important considerations to keep in mind when redrawing district lines. You can search these comments by key word, city, county or zip code, or by current Congressional, State Assembly, or State Senate districts. You can also simply zoom in on the map to an area of California to see what people are saying about the places that matter to them. Want to learn more? You can also contact commentators directly via email (if provided) to find out more about their particular perspective. 
LAUNCH “COMMENT ON CA” tool

U.N.I.T.Y.
fig. 9 Unity tables

ReDrawCA.org lets you share your work with individuals or groups that you specify, or allows you to make your work public to anyone using the site. Share your research and proposed districts to get feedback and insight from other organizations, and work together to draw the district you think will be the most equitable.

CONNECT with other people and organizations who share your interests and concerns.

In addition to accessing key redistricting data, you can also learn about the concerns of individuals and organizations by using ReDrawCA’s “Comment on CA” tool. Anyone can tag and label areas on a map of California to share community information that should be kept in mind when redrawing district lines. If you want to learn more, you can contact commentators directly via email (if available) to find out about their particular perspective.
LAUNCH “COMMENT ON CA” tool

WORK TOGETHER with members of your group or coalition to redraw district lines.

ReDrawCA’s “Group Mapping” tool allows you to collaborate with other people to redraw district lines. Start with a map you’ve created using the “Draw Your Lines” tool or a draft plan created by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Then, invite others to share their thoughts on the map by sending them an email with a link to a password-protected private editing room. Using the wiki-map commenting technology, your working group can leave notes and make recommendations on how district lines should be redrawn. Enter the “Group Mapping” tool’s edit room to change existing boundary lines or draw lines around proposed communities of interest. 
(coming Soon)

TESTIFY
fig. 10 Testify!

PRINT the maps you draw.

With ReDrawCA, you can save, print out and email reports containing maps of your proposed districts, along with the different data variables you mapped. The reports are specially designed to help you craft a convincing report that will be persuasive to the Citizens Redistricting Commission. You can also save your research and proposed district boundaries to your free account for easy retrieval later.

TRANSFER your work to other redistricting software.

ReDrawCA is compatible with Maptitude, the software used by UC Berkeley’s Technical Assistance Sites and the Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw proposed district lines. You can easily transfer the district maps you’ve drawn from ReDrawCA into Maptitude by downloading it as an equivalency file, which any computer with mapping software can upload. If you need additional assistance in using Maptitude, you can take your work to one of six technical assistance centers run by UC Berkeley’s Law School. (To contact one of the technical assistance centers, click here.)

SHARE your work with your community, colleagues or the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Once you’ve done your research and drawn your proposed district lines, share your work! Create a report with your maps and research that you can print out or share via email or the web. Write news articles about the redistricting process and what you learned. Connect with another organization doing similar work to add your perspective to the conversation. Or, take your maps and data straight to the CRC to testify on where you think the district lines should be drawn! For more information on the CRC and to find out when hearings and events are being held, visit wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

 

RedrawCA is a project of Healthy City, an information and action resource that unites community voices, rigorous research and innovative technologies to solve the root causes of social inequity. Healthy City and ReDrawCA are both initiatives of Advancement Project, a public policy change organization rooted in the civil rights movement.

 

Healthy City is an information and action resource that unites community voices, rigorous research and innovative technologies to solve the root causes of social inequity. HealthyCity.org offers an easy-to-use online interactive mapping tool that draws from a comprehensive database of public and nonprofit resources and allows users to map these resources, as well as compare the distribution of these resources to a variety of data variables (including demographics, health & safety, economic and housing data). Healthy City offers technical assistance to groups using its site through trainings, events and its Community Research Lab, and partners directly with organizations to develop targeted strategies that fuel social change.

Healthy City and ReDrawCA are both initiatives of Advancement Project, a public policy change organization rooted in the civil rights movement. For more information, visit HealthyCity.org  

Advancement Project is a public policy change organization rooted in the civil rights movement. We engineer large-scale systems change to remedy inequality, expand opportunity and open paths to upward mobility. Our goal is that members of all communities have the safety, opportunity and health they need to thrive.

Our signature is reach and impact. With our strong ties to diverse communities, unlikely alliances, policy and legal expertise, and creative use of technology, we and our partners have won over $15 billion to extend opportunity. Whether it is to build 150 schools, transform the City of Los Angeles’ approach to its gang epidemic, or revolutionize the use of data in policymaking, Advancement Project evens the odds for communities striving to attain equal footing and equal treatment.

Advancement Project has offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, and a national office in Washington, D.C. Our national office builds a just democracy by strengthening grassroots movements to end inequities. National programs create change and deliver impact by partnering with groups representing communities of color at the local level, replicating successful solutions and shifting public opinion at the national level.

Advancement Project chooses activities, whether national or local, with the potential to build power at the grassroots level and reframe and accelerate the quest for social justice. In addition to Healthy City, our work in California centers on ensuring educational equity for all and expanding educational opportunities for low-income children from birth through high school graduation; reducing and preventing community violence, making poor neighborhoods safer so that children can learn, families can thrive, and communities can prosper; and revealing significant discrepancies between the allocation of public funds and the needs of low-income communities and communities of color. To learn more, visit www.advancementprojectca.org.  

Advancement Project believes that community involvement in the redistricting process is critical to move the ideas and input of communities of color into the formal policy discussion at the local, state and national level. To ensure that these communities have a seat at the table when legislative boundaries are drawn, Advancement Project provides grassroots organizations with the tools they need to participate in the redistricting process.

Built on the HealthyCity.org platform, ReDrawCA gives individuals and community organizations the ability to share knowledge about their community. By making this tool free and easy to use, ReDrawCA democratizes the redistricting process, and provides individuals and communities with the tools they need to meaningfully participate. To learn more, visit www.advancementprojectca.org.

 

Bartlett v. Strickland

The Bartlett v. Strickland case, decided by the US Supreme Court in 2009, struck down a redistricting plan in North Carolina that attempted to preserve minority voting power in a state legislative district that was 39% African American. Their ruling stated that that a minority group is only protected under Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act if that minority group makes up over 50% of the voting-age population in an area.

California Voting Rights Act

The California State Senate introduced the California Voting Rights Act in 2001 to make it easier for minority groups to sue over the dilution of the strength of their votes in at-large elections. It was passed into law in 2002.

Census data

Every ten years, the United States conducts a comprehensive survey of all of its residents. Amongst other uses, the demographic data collected from this Census is used to apportion political representation.

Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC)

The California CRC is a 14-person commission that is made up of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 Independents. The CRC will determine California’s district lines for US Congress, the California State Assembly, the California State Legislature, and the Board of Equalization. The CRC was established with the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008; its responsibilities were expanded by the passage of Proposition 20 in 2010.

community of interest (COI)

Though there is no clear legal definition of a community of interest, the Brennan Center for Legal Justice broadly defines COIs as “a group of people concentrated in a geographic area who share similar interests and priorities – whether social, cultural, ethnic, economic, religious, or political.” In California, the State Constitution specifies that COIs “shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.” California’s Proposition 20, which passed in 2010, went a little further in defining COIs as "a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process." However, these definitions leave a lot open to interpretation, meaning that COIs are likely to be further defined in court cases in the coming years.

compactness

Compactness is a key consideration in the redistricting process. Generally, a compact district would have a fairly regular shape (like a circle or square) without a lot of offshoots or tendrils. However, there is little agreement about how to define compactness, and many existing districts do not conform to a regular shape. The California Constitution was amended in 2008 to read “to the extent practicable… districts shall be drawn to encourage geographical compactness such that nearby areas of population are not bypassed for more distant population.”

contiguity

Contiguity is a key consideration in the redistricting process. A contiguous district is one in which you can travel from any point in the district to any other point in the district without crossing the district boundary. Exceptions are often made where water (rivers, lakes, etc.) is involved in the district, or where existing political boundaries are not contiguous.

cracking

Cracking is a practice used in redistricting to disenfranchise specific populations’ voting power. For instance, redistricting could “crack” voters of one ethnicity or political party in a geography into several different districts, thereby diluting that group’s voting power.

gerrymander

To intentionally draw district lines to give advantage to one party or group over another.

incumbent

a political candidate who is currently in office.

minority voters

A bloc of voters that make up a minority in a community based on race, ethnicity, religion or language spoken.

nesting

Nesting happens when two or more lower house legislative districts are located within one upper house district. (For instance, since there are 80 California State Assembly districts and 40 California State Senate districts, there could be two assembly districts nested within each senate district.) Nesting reduces administrative burden, such as the number of different ballots that need to be produced. However, this practice may also affect the ability to draw districts that honor minority opportunity districts or other communities with shared needs for both legislative houses.

“one person, one vote”

“One person, one vote” is one of the key tenets of redistricting. Ensuring that districts have equal or very close to equal population ensures that every person’s voting power is equal. An example of unequal voting power would be if District A and District B each elect one representative, but District A has 50,000 people in it while District B has 100,000 people in it, you could say that the people in District A have twice the voting power of the people in District B. Making districts have the same population (plus or minus 10%) works against this level of disparity.

packing

Packing is a practice used in redistricting to disenfranchise specific populations’ voting power. For instance, redistricting could “pack” most voters of one ethnicity or political party in a geography into one district, allowing for all the surrounding districts to be controlled by a different ethnicity or party.

political boundaries

Political boundaries are the existing subdivisions of a state (like counties, townships, cities, etc.), and are often taken into consideration when redistricting.

Proposition 11

California’s Proposition 11, or the Voters FIRST Act, was passed in 2008 to establish the Citizens Redistricting Commission. Prop 11 gave the CRC the power to draw electoral boundaries for State Assembly, State Senate and the Board of Equalization.

Proposition 20

California’s Proposition 20, or the Voters FIRST Act for Congress, was passed in 2010 to expanded the powers given to the Citizens Redistricting Commission to include drawing congressional district boundaries. It also went further in providing a definition for communities of interest as "a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process."

tacking

Tacking is a practice used in redistricting to disenfranchise specific populations’ voting power. For instance, redistricting could “tack” on voters of one ethnicity or political party by extending the geography of a district to include an historic stronghold of one particular ethnicity or political party, thereby increasing that group’s voting power in that district.

Voting Rights Act (VRA)

The US Congress passed the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965 to outlaw discriminatory voting practices against minorities. It was specifically aimed at curbing voting practices that were being used in Southern states to disenfranchise African American voters.

Section 2 prohibits these acts by stating that “no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” This section was later amended to included protections for those with membership in a minority language group.

Through litigation since the passage of the VRA, Section 2 has protected minority voters’ rights even when intentional discrimination can’t be proved; discrimination could be found if minority voters did not have equal access to the voting process as non-minority voters (such as through drawing of district lines to dilute the voice of minority voters). In 2009, the Supreme Court’s Bartlett v. Strickland decision weakened Section 2 protections by stating that only districts with greater than 50% minority population are afforded minority protection status.

Section 5 of the VRA requires that certain districts with a history of discriminating against minority voters must have any changes to their district lines or voting practices “precleared” by the US Department of Justice. In California, Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba Counties have preclearance requirements.