Redistricting is a priority issue for education and advocacy at all levels of the League.
What is Redistricting?
Redistricting is the process of redrawing districts for each government body that uses district elections, including the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, county boards of supervisors, city councils, school boards, and special districts (e.g., water or sewer districts). Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, districts are redrawn to ensure that each local, state, and federal lawmaker represents the same number of people. At the same time, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission also draws new maps for statewide election districts to make sure each district has about the same number of people.
Why It Matters
Redistricting matters because the drawing of district lines determines who represents you in elected office. Areas that are included – and excluded – from these districts impact which communities will have a voice in selecting their representative. It also affects which communities will have influence with their elected officials.
Redistricting will determine political representation for the next ten years. When elected officials draw district lines, they get to design their own territory and choose who votes for them. This can lead to discriminatory manipulation that weakens the voting strength of targeted communities, also allowing partisan manipulation that favors one political party over another.
The League believes that districts should be drawn by independent, special citizen-ran commissions that use fair criteria to help keep communities intact and to ensure that everyone is equally represented.
What is Gerrymandering?
Gerrymandering is the intentional manipulation of the redistricting process by the people with political power to keep that political power.
When legislators draw their own districts, they have an interest in drawing lines that will ensure that they can be re-elected.
The League opposes gerrymandering. We were leaders in the movement to create California’s independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in order to ensure that the process is transparent, the players are accountable, partisanship is minimized, and our election district maps are drawn fairly. Furthermore, we built in rules to guarantee that Commission members reflect California’s diversity.
How You’re Represented in U.S. and State Government
What You Can Do
- Advocate Locally: Check out the LWVC Fair Maps Act Toolkit. This will be updated soon to take into account recent amendments to the Fair Maps Act.
- Find out who is drawing the maps for your local districts (county board of supervisors, city council, school board, community college board, special district board) and what information is being used to make decisions about where lines should be drawn. These are some places that can help you get started:
- County Clerk or Registrar of Voters,
- County Superintendent of Schools,
- County Counsel,
- City Clerk,
- City Attorney, or
- Special District Managers
What We Are Doing
The League works for fair maps at every level of government. California’s state-level independent, nonpartisan redistricting system has garnered national recognition. Unfortunately, local gerrymandering persists.
The LWVC closely followed the state redistricting process, including commenting frequently on issues such as the commission process and public access to meetings. We worked with a wide variety of partner groups – good government, voting rights, and civic engagement groups from throughout the state to ensure that the commission hears from a diversity of people and groups from throughout the state.
After the cycle was over, we published the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s Successes and Challenges, a comprehensive report evaluating both the outcomes and the processes of the state’s 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The report, authored by Dr. Christian Grose, professor of political science and public policy at USC, highlights the successes and challenges of California’s 2020 statewide redistricting process, which bore the responsibility of following California’s 2010 best-in-the-nation showing and was conducted entirely during the pandemic. The report also offers detailed recommendations for strengthening the upcoming 2030 redistricting cycle.
Redistricting is most associated with redrawing state legislative or congressional districts. But lines must be redrawn at all levels of government where lawmakers are elected by-district, including local offices like city council or school board. Because we have seen incumbents in California use the local line-drawing process to disenfranchise growing racial and language minority communities, and to reduce the voting power of political minorities, we advocate for legislation to ensure that fair maps are drawn for local elections.
In 2023, we published the Promise of Fair Maps, California’s 2020 Local Redistricting Cycle: Lessons Learned and Future Reforms, a report by LWVC and partners. The report evaluates the effectiveness of the FAIR MAPS Act and related independent redistricting reforms aimed at encouraging meaningful public participation and promoting the adoption of local maps that better reflect and empower a jurisdiction’s diverse communities. It found that local governments often prioritize the interests of incumbent politicians in redistricting, instead of focusing on community needs and using fair criteria to draw district lines.
- To address these issues, we sponsored the Fair Maps Amendments Act, AB 764 (Bryan), which was signed by Governor Newsom. The new law will prohibit the consideration of incumbent protection, ensure that the safeguards of the Fair Maps Act extend beyond cities and counties to educational and special districts, and make the process more transparent and equitable overall.
- However, our victory is tempered by the Governor’s veto of another sponsored bill, AB 1248, which would have required large local jurisdictions to establish independent redistricting commissions before the 2030 cycle. California is nationally recognized for our gold-standard Citizens Redistricting Commission, and the Governor’s veto represents a missed opportunity to eradicate local gerrymandering. Instead, many communities will continue to face incumbent politicians manipulating the process for their own benefit. This fight is far from over – the League will continue to advocate for independent redistricting commissions in local governments across California to make sure that the power is in the hands of the people, not politicians.
Local Leagues throughout the state are working hard to engage the public in local redistricting – cities, counties, school districts, and special districts. In some areas, they are part of a coalition of groups, but in others, the League is the primary or only organization working on redistricting. Find your local League here.
- In 2016, we co-sponsored legislation (SB 1108) to authorize all California counties and general law cities to establish independent citizen commissions to redraw district lines.
- In 2018, we supported SB 1018, which clarified the original intent of SB 1108 on two matters:
- Commissions may be used for an initial districting and not simply a redistricting.
- Hybrid commissions, where both the local government and commission share authority in adopting final maps, must meet the same standards of independence and transparency required of independent commissions.
- In 2019 and 2020, we cosponsored the Fair Maps Act, AB 849, and AB 1276. They bring fair redistricting criteria to California’s cities and counties. AB 849 prohibits partisan gerrymandering, standardizes criteria, and prioritizes intact neighborhoods and diverse communities. AB 1276 ensured that the new requirements would fit within the California election schedule. These new laws represent an extension of the LWVUS’ People Powered Fair Maps Campaign, a coordinated effort to reform redistricting across the country.
- For current bill info, refer to our Bill Status Report. Find out more about our legislative work.
- CA Citizens Redistricting Commission, Redistricting Basics Presentation – Spanish
How can you get involved?
Learn how you can become part of the League’s group of active volunteers on this issue!