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Understanding Redistricting

What is Redistricting?

Most of our political representatives, from school boards to Congress, are elected by voters who have been sorted into districts. Redrawing the boundary lines for these districts is called redistricting.

Under the U.S. Constitution, redistricting happens about every ten years, after each decade’s U.S. Census, to adjust the districts and make them roughly equal in population. In North Carolina, elected representatives are authorized to redraw the district lines for their own governmental body. So, school board members draw the school board lines, City Council members draw the city council lines, and state legislators in the N.C. General Assembly draw the state legislative and Congressional district lines.

What is redistricting and how does it affect you?

Learn all about redistricting, why it matters, and what you can do to influence it.

 How Does Redistricting Affect Me?

The way a district’s lines are drawn may include or exclude certain people. These decisions are often made based on party affiliation, race, or other factors, and can affect who gets heard, whose interests are most represented, and who can win the next election.

Too often in redrawing districts, elected officials focus on their own re-election rather than the people’s interests. Redistricting then becomes a secretive process focused on advancing partisan interests; it becomes a way for politicians to pick their preferred voters and secure their power.

What is Gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the deliberate drawing of districts in a way that maximizes the power of politicians. Gerrymandering may result in oddly-shaped districts designed to greatly increase or decrease a certain kind of voter (e.g., Black voters or Republican voters). For instance, to the right, legislators drew former Senate District 21 (since redrawn) with tentacles that added black voters from Cumberland Co. to make District 19 more white.

How Can We Improve the Redistricting Process?

  • At Democracy North Carolina, we believe the redistricting process should be open, fair, and participatory. Whether redistricting is conducted by an independent, nonpartisan body, or by the state legislature, or by using court-ordered standards, any process should:
    • Protect voters of color by drawing districts that reflect the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Invite robust debate from community members, academics, and other stakeholders, and incorporate their feedback in the creation of districts.
    • Reject partisan or racial gerrymandering of districts.

What Can I Do to Promote Fair Redistricting? Visit the Action Hub: