The Census Bureau is set to release data today from the 2020 Census on “race, Hispanic origin, and the voting-age population” that states use “to redraw the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts,” according to their website. This redrawing of districts is known as “redistricting.”
Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years, using the latest Census data — along with data points ranging from education levels, wealth and historic voting patterns — to draw congressional seats. Republicans, because of their control of a majority of state legislatures, have been far more successful in drawing maps that favor their party.
Democrats have responded with a two-pronged approach with vastly different levels of success. First, operatives and lawyers have filed a number of successful lawsuits alleging that the other party is illegally engaging in gerrymandering, particularly along racial lines. Gerrymandering is when politicians manipulate voting district boundaries to favor one party over another. Secondly, Democrats have looked to turn the redistricting process into a political issue, committing more millions to try to win back state legislatures ahead of the redistricting process. Those efforts have been far less successful.
In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state’s governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states, including Arizona, Colorado and Michigan, rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps.
For those tasked with redistricting, especially in states with some political control, the pressure to get these calculations right is immense, given that the process could determine control of the House of Representatives for years to come.
Adding pressure to these calculations are dramatic demographic shifts across the country, with states in the upper Midwest and northeast likely to lose seats in Congress, while states like Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina are set to add seats because of growth largely fueled by minority voters.
Read more about the process here.