State-by-state redistricting procedures

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Redistricting policy
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Redistricting by state
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All United States Representatives and state legislators are elected from political divisions called districts. Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. It is often a fiercely-contested issue, owing to perceived undue partisan influence in the process. Proponents of redistricting reform maintain that political parties and incumbents draw the district lines for their benefit at the expense of proportionality and fair representation. This practice is known as gerrymandering.

Methods

See also: Redistricting

State legislatures

Congressional redistricting methods by state

In 37 states, legislatures are primarily responsible for the drawing of congressional district lines. There are seven states that have only one congressional district each. These are not counted among the aforementioned 37 states. In 37 states, legislatures have primary authority to draw state legislative district boundaries.[1][2]

In these states, the legislatures typically adopt district lines by a simple majority vote in each chamber. A state's governor may usually veto the legislature's redistricting plan. Two states, Connecticut and Maine, require two-thirds majorities in each chamber in order to approve district lines. Five states, including Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi and North Carolina, set electoral boundaries by joint resolution. In these states, the governor cannot veto the legislature's decision.[1][2]

Advisory commissions

Several states employ advisory commissions to assist in the drawing of congressional and state legislative district lines. These commissions may make recommendations to their respective state legislatures, but the legislatures are not necessarily required to adhere to these recommendations.[1][2]

Backup commissions and procedures

Seven states utilize backup commissions and other procedures to establish state legislative district lines in the event that the state legislatures are unable to agree on redistricting plans. These include Connecticut, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Illinois. Indiana and Connecticut employ similar methods for congressional district lines.[1][2]

Backup commissions and processes differ from state to state. The basic procedures are as follows:[1][2][3]

  1. In Maryland, the governor's preferred plan is enacted if the state legislature fails to adopt new state legislative districts.
  2. In Oregon, the secretary of state draws state legislative district lines in the event of legislative gridlock.
  3. In Connecticut and Illinois, backup commissions comprise members appointed by leaders of the state legislatures.
  4. In Mississippi and Texas, backup commissions comprise statewide elected officials.
  5. In Oklahoma, the backup commission comprises the governor, the lieutenant governor and members of the legislature's majority party (selected by legislative leaders).

Politician commissions

Politician commissions, composed of elected or appointed members, have primary responsibility for congressional redistricting in two states, Hawaii and New Jersey. Such commissions draw state legislative district lines in seven states: Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.[1][2]

Independent commissions

Independent commissions draw the lines for both state legislative and congressional districts in six states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington. Specific membership requirements for these commissions vary from state to state. Generally speaking, however, these commissions do not include legislators or other elected officials.[1][2]

State-by-state procedures

Congressional districts

A total of 43 states must draw new congressional district lines every 10 years following completion of United States Census (the remaining seven states have only one congressional district each). In 37 states, state legislatures are primarily responsible for redistricting. In four of these states, advisory commissions are involved in the process; in two, backup commissions or procedures must draw the lines if the state legislature is unable to approve a plan. In four states, independent commissions draw congressional district lines. In two states, politician commissions draw the lines.[1]

The table below details congressional redistricting procedures in each of the 50 states.

Congressional redistricting procedures
State Who draws the lines? Can the governor veto the lines? Notes
Alabama Alabama State Legislature Yes
Alaska N/A N/A Alaska is home to only one congressional district.
Arizona Independent commission N/A
Arkansas Arkansas State Legislature Yes
California Independent commission N/A
Colorado Colorado State Legislature Yes
Connecticut Connecticut State Legislature No A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Delaware N/A N/A Delaware is home to only one congressional district.
Florida Florida State Legislature Yes
Georgia Georgia State Legislature Yes
Hawaii Politician commission N/A
Idaho Independent commission N/A
Illinois Illinois State Legislature Yes
Indiana Indiana State Legislature Yes A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Iowa Iowa State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Kansas Kansas State Legislature Yes
Kentucky Kentucky State Legislature Yes
Louisiana Louisiana State Legislature Yes
Maine Maine State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Maryland Maryland State Legislature Yes
Massachusetts Massachusetts State Legislature Yes
Michigan Michigan State Legislature Yes
Minnesota Minnesota State Legislature Yes
Mississippi Mississippi State Legislature Yes
Missouri Missouri State Legislature Yes
Montana N/A N/A Montana is home to only one congressional district.
Nebraska Nebraska State Legislature Yes
Nevada Nevada State Legislature Yes
New Hampshire New Hampshire State Legislature Yes
New Jersey Politician commission N/A
New Mexico New Mexico State Legislature Yes
New York New York State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
North Carolina North Carolina State Legislature No
North Dakota N/A N/A North Dakota is home to only one congressional district.
Ohio Ohio State Legislature Yes
Oklahoma Oklahoma State Legislature Yes
Oregon Oregon State Legislature Yes
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania State Legislature Yes
Rhode Island Rhode Island State Legislature Yes
South Carolina South Carolina State Legislature Yes
South Dakota N/A N/A South Dakota is home to only one congressional district.
Tennessee Tennessee State Legislature Yes
Texas Texas State Legislature Yes
Utah Utah State Legislature Yes
Vermont N/A N/A Vermont is home to only one congressional district.
Virginia Virginia State Legislature Yes The governor appoints an advisory commission to assist him or her in developing a redistricting proposal.
Washington Independent commission N/A
West Virginia West Virginia State Legislature Yes
Wisconsin Wisconsin State Legislature Yes
Wyoming N/A N/A Wyoming is home to only one congressional district.
Source: All About Redistricting, "Who draws the lines?" accessed March 25, 2015

State legislative districts

In 37 of the 50 states, state legislatures are primarily responsible for the drawing of state legislative districts. Backup commissions or procedures are employed in seven of these states, and advisory commissions play a part in seven. Independent commissions draw state legislative district lines in six states. In seven states, politician commissions are responsible for state legislative redistricting.[1]

The table below details state legislative redistricting procedures in each of the 50 states.

State legislative redistricting procedures
State Who draws the lines? Can the governor veto the lines? Notes
Alabama Alabama State Legislature Yes
Alaska Independent commission N/A
Arizona Independent commission N/A
Arkansas Politician commission N/A
California Independent commission N/A
Colorado Politician commission N/A
Connecticut Connecticut State Legislature No A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Delaware Delaware State Legislature Yes
Florida Florida State Legislature No
Georgia Georgia State Legislature Yes
Hawaii Politician commission N/A
Idaho Independent commission N/A
Illinois Illinois State Legislature No A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Indiana Indiana State Legislature Yes
Iowa Iowa State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Kansas Kansas State Legislature Yes
Kentucky Kentucky State Legislature Yes
Louisiana Louisiana State Legislature Yes
Maine Maine State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Maryland Maryland State Legislature No The governor's plan takes effect if the legislature cannot approve its own plan by joint resolution.
Massachusetts Massachusetts State Legislature Yes
Michigan Michigan State Legislature Yes
Minnesota Minnesota State Legislature Yes
Mississippi Mississippi State Legislature No A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Missouri Politician commission N/A Two separate commissions are involved in the state legislative redistricting process: one for the House and one for the state Senate and one for the state House.
Montana Independent commission N/A
Nebraska Nebraska State Legislature Yes
Nevada Nevada State Legislature Yes
New Hampshire New Hampshire State Legislature Yes
New Jersey Politician commission N/A
New Mexico New Mexico State Legislature Yes
New York New York State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
North Carolina North Carolina State Legislature No
North Dakota North Dakota State Legislature Yes
Ohio Politician commission N/A An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Oklahoma Oklahoma State Legislature Yes A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Oregon Oregon State Legislature Yes If the legislature fails to adopt a plan, the secretary of state must draw the district lines.
Pennsylvania Politician commission N/A
Rhode Island Rhode Island State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
South Carolina South Carolina State Legislature Yes
South Dakota South Dakota State Legislature Yes
Tennessee Tennessee State Legislature Yes
Texas Texas State Legislature Yes A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
Utah Utah State Legislature Yes
Vermont Vermont State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Virginia Virginia State Legislature Yes An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
Washington Independent commission N/A The legislature may amend the commission's plan with a two-thirds vote.
West Virginia West Virginia State Legislature Yes
Wisconsin Wisconsin State Legislature Yes
Wyoming Wyoming State Legislature
Source: All About Redistricting, "Who draws the lines?" accessed March 25, 2015

Issues

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

United States Supreme Court
See also: Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is a case before the United States Supreme Court. At issue is the constitutionality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which was established by state constitutional amendment in 2000. According to Article 1, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." The state legislature argues that the use of the word "legislature" in this context is literal; therefore, only a state legislature may draw congressional district lines. Meanwhile, the commission contends that the word "legislature" ought to be interpreted more broadly to mean "the legislative powers of the state," including voter initiatives and referenda.[4][5]

The states have enacted a variety of redistricting reforms intended to make the process less partisan and more fair. According to The Washington Post, six states employ independent commissions to conduct congressional redistricting: Arizona, California, Idaho, Washington, Montana and Alaska. Should the court rule in favor of the Arizona State Legislature in this case, independent redistricting commissions in these states could be affected. Furthermore, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, the court's ruling might impact a broad assortment of voter-initiated state election laws. The court is expected to issue its ruling in June 2015.[6][7][8][9]

Competitiveness

Some critics contend that the dominant redistricting methods result in a lack of competitive elections. Jennifer Clark, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said, "The redistricting process has important consequences for voters. In some states, incumbent legislators work together to protect their own seats, which produces less competition in the political system. Voters may feel as though they do not have a meaningful alternative to the incumbent legislator. Legislators who lack competition in their districts have less incentive to adhere to their constituents’ opinions."[10]

Congress

See also: Margin of victory analysis for the 2014 congressional elections

In 2014, Ballotpedia analyzed the margins of victory in all 435 contests for the United States House of Representatives. Ballotpedia found that the average margin of victory was 35.8 percent, compared to 31.8 percent in 2012. A total of 318 elections (73 percent of all House elections) were won by 20 percentage points or more. Only 26 elections ( (6 percent of the total) were won by 5 percentage points or less. See the table below for further details.

Electoral margins of victory in 2014 United States House of Representatives elections
Party 0%-5% 5%-10% 10%-20% 20% or more
Electiondot.png Democratic 15 15 32 126
Ends.png Republican 11 8 36 192
Totals 26 23 68 318

State legislatures

See also: Margin of victory in state legislative elections

In 2014, Ballotpedia conducted a study of competitive districts in 46 state legislative chambers between 2010 and 2012. The most recent United States Census was conducted in 2010. This triggered the drawing of the district lines that were in place for elections in 2012. Ballotpedia found that there were 71 fewer competitive general election contests in 2012 than in 2010. Of the 46 chambers studied, 27 experienced a net loss in the number of competitive elections. A total of 17 experienced a new increase. In total, 15.5 percent of the 4,145 legislative contests studied saw competitive general elections in 2010. In 2012, only 13.8 percent of the contests studied saw competitive general elections. For more information regarding this report, including methodology, click here.

Recent news

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See also

External links

Additional reading

References