What is Redistricting?
Redistricting is the process of revising the geographic boundaries within a state from which people elect their representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislature, county or city council, school board, etc.
Apportionment is only half the battle of achieving fair representation. States use census data for redrawing or "redistricting" their Congressional districts after apportionment. According to Supreme Court rulings, states must draw Congressional Districts so that the voting power of any group of persons in the district is neither increased nor decreased. This often controversial concept is traditionally called "one-man-one-vote."
How is the Fairness of Redistricting Ensured?
In an attempt to increase the accuracy and fairness of redistricting, Congress in 1975, passed P.L. 94-171. Under this law, the Census Bureau is required to "work closely" with state officials before each decennial census. The Census Bureau and state officials utilize the "small-area population" data from the census to redraw Congressional Districts in the fairest way possible.
Under the provisions of P.L. 94-171, the data needed for redistricting are delivered to the majority and minority leaders of each state legislature, as well as to each governor.
Can Redistricting be "Fudged?"
The actual effectiveness of this method of district drawing in achieving fair and equal representation is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, the process has, in some cases, been abused and politicized. Strange district boundaries designed especially to give a political party an advantage over its opponents have been allowed in the past. This process, known as "gerrymandering" has led some people to favor doing away with the Congressional District system completely and choosing all members of Congress in "at large" elections. Since such a change would require amending the Constitution, the current system is likely to remain in place for quite a while.
Why Answer the Census?
In many ways, answering the census is as important as voting to our democratic process. A complete and accurate census is our best way of providing every person in America an equal voice in Congress.