Redistricting California


Learn more about LWV California's and the National League's position and research on this issue.

National Position


Why it matters

Political and racial gerrymandering distorts and undermines representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters rather than voters to elect their officials. When done for purposes of racial discrimination or to ensure the dominance of one political party, gerrymandering runs counter to equal voting rights for all eligible voters.


We promote transparent and accountable redistricting processes and to end hyper-partisan practices that don't benefit constituents. We believe responsibility for fair redistricting should be vested in an independent special commission, with membership that reflects the diversity of the unit of government. The League works in states across the country to pass ballot initiatives to institute independent redistricting commissions. Our 2019 legislative advocacy efforts included redistricting reform:

  • We supported AB 849, the Fair Maps Act, which was signed into law by Governor Newsome. This new law will combat partisan and racially-discriminatory gerrymandering at the local level.
  • We supported SB 139, the People's Maps Act, which would have brought us one step closer to giving people–not politicians–the power to draw the lines in large counties. Governor Newsom regrettably vetoed the bill.

California has garnered national recognition for introducing independent, nonpartisan redistricting throughout the state, yet local gerrymandering persists. Incumbents use the local line-drawing process to disenfranchise growing ethnic and language minority communities and to reduce the voting power of political minorities

In June 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill affirming the lower courts designation that the Virginia legislature lacks standing to appeal in its own right. The League of Women Voters national president Chris Carson issued the following statement on the decision:

"This is a victory for voters because it disallows legislators from bringing lawsuits to protect their own political interests. The Supreme Court’s decision affirming the lower court's ruling around standing is an important milestone. The Court provided clarity that state Attorneys General will maintain the exclusive right to bring future redistricting cases.”

The court ruled earlier this year that the maps in question were a racial gerrymander and required new maps be used in the recent June elections. These new maps ensured that every voter’s ballot matters in Virginia.

For current bill info, refer to our Bill Status Report. Find out more about our legislative priorities.



History of Redistricting Cases before the Supreme Court of the United States:

Evenwel v. Abbot (pending)

This case involves the very basic question of whether the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows states to use total population, and does not require states to use voter population, when apportioning state legislative districts. A lower three-judge federal district court held that it does. The Court will decide whether this is correct. On December 8, 2015 SCOTUS will hear oral arguments.

You can find the complete record of arguments, briefs, and related material as well as breaking news on the arguments on the ScotusBlog.

Additional commentary can be found from the Brennan Center.

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission et al

In June 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) affirmed the decision of the lower court in the matter of Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The U.S. Constitution does allow commissions established by a vote of the people of the state to draw Congressional voting districts. This means that California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission will continue to draw the lines for Congressional districts.

You can read the full opinion on the SCOTUS website .

Here is a complete listing of amicus briefs submitted along with other related documents.

Redistricting Update: Courts Clear the Way for New Maps

The new district maps for state Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and Congressional districts will be used beginning with the 2012 June and November elections.

Find Your New District: 

At the California Citizens Redistricting Commission website,, click here to view the final district maps posted on the Statewide Database. Select the map you wish to view. You can locate an address within a district or click directly on the map to see a district's number and attributes.

Compare the 2001 and 2011 District Maps 

80 state Assembly Districts

40 state Senate Districts

4 state Board of Equalization Districts

53 California Congressional Districts

 Final commission report detailing their process and findings.

What Is a Deferred Voter?

In 2012 voters will elect new state senators in odd-numbered districts for new four year terms. Some voters may find themselves moved from an odd numbered to an even numbered senate district. For these voters, voting in a state Senate race will be DEFERRED until 2014. Find out if your district will have a temporary (caretaker) state Senator.

 Challenges :

Proposition 40: A referendum on the state senate maps was qualified for the November 2012 General Election ballot. 

In that referendum election, a yes vote supported the new maps certified by the Commission and a no vote rejected the Commission's maps for state senate districts. Proposition 40 passed by a vote of 71.9% to 28.1%, and thus the maps were confirmed.

"To avoid uncertainty about which maps should be used in 2012 elections," the state Supreme Court ruled that for the June and November 2012 ballot, the Commission’s certified (8/15/2011) senate district maps would be used. 

  • State Challenges: The California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, denied two petitions challenging the validity of the state senate and congressional redistricting maps that had been certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. (October 26, 2011) 

Pre-clearance: Under the Section 5 provisions of the Voting Rights Act any changes to voting must be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Proposed voting changes must not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.

The commission was informed that the U.S. Attorney General does not object to the California maps submitted for pre-clearance . (January 17, 2012)

 The commission submitted the maps for Yuba, Monterey, Merced and Kings counties to the U.S. Department of Justice for review of their compliance with the Voting Rights Act.(November 15, 2011)

What Is Redistricting and Why Do We Do It Every 10 Years?

The United States Constitution directs Congress to count the total population in a federal census every ten years to determine representation in Congress. The 435 Congressional seats are then reallocated or reapportioned based on states' populations. Equal population is the primary criteria for reapportioning Congressional districts. 

California is the most populous state and has 53 representatives in the United States House of Representatives.


Read more about the Constitution and the history of the census......

States and Local Government Redistricting

States and communities must also realign political district boundaries with equal population and comply with the Voting Rights Act. Each elected official should represent approximately the same number of people maintaining the principal of ‘one person, one vote’.

This process is generally known as “redistricting.”Read more......

Learn about the ABC's of Redistricting, in  Breaking Ground, by Loyola Law Associate Professor Justin Levitt.

Local Redistricting:

 Many local counties, cities and special districts have not finished or even started their redistricting process. Check with your county clerk or the superintendent of your local school district or board of your community college district or other special district to find out how and when redistricting will take place and when public comment will be taken. 

Who is responsible for local redistricting? 

Local redistricting often draws little public attention. Yet, it is no less important for citizens to be represented and have fair districts drawn at the local level as it is at the state and federal level.

What impact does it have on me?

All local governments that elect by district must, every ten years, redraw their district lines to assure that all districts have nearly equal population.

 Local redistricting involves any county, city, school district, community college district or special district that is divided into districts or divisions. These local government agencies are required to review their current district boundaries with new population figures from the 2010 census and engage in a redistricting process right along with the state.*

If districts are drawn that keep communities intact, people are better able to elect representatives who will further their interests. Frequently, local redistricting draws little attention. But it is no less important for citizens to be represented and have fair districts drawn at the local level than it is at the state and federal level.

*Some charter cities use the mid-decade federal census or an official city census as specified in their charters.

The local governing body (board of supervisors, city council, school board, etc.) is generally responsible for adopting the new district lines. There may be an advisory committee, and for counties there is provision for a commission of elected county officials to do the redistricting if the Board of Supervisors fails to do it by November 1 of the year following the census. Charter cities and counties may set up their own process, such as a separate commission or task force.

What are the rules and criteria for local redistricting?

Redistricting criteria for state districts, the open meeting notifications and the public process mandated for the state redistricting commission does not necessarily apply at the local level.

The California Elections Code, Division 21 provides the statutory basis for redrawing the districts for county supervisors, city council members, and the governing boards of special districts. TheCalifornia Education Code provides for redistricting in school and community college districts that elect by trustee areas.

Note: The provisions of Propositions 11 and 20 that govern the selection and functioning of the Citizens Redistricting Commission apply only to redistricting of the state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization and California’s Congressional districts. 

Do many local agencies elect their governing boards by districts?

The boards of supervisors of almost all 58 counties are elected by district. Charter and general law cities may elect their city councils by districts; approximately 30 do so. The governing boards of many school districts and some special districts are elected by divisions such as trustee areas or wards.

Cities and Counties:  Is your city/county a charter government or general law?

Charter government

In addition to the statutory requirements in the state Elections Code for charter cities and counties, your city or county charter will also have statutory requirements for the redistricting process. Read the charter carefully to find out WHO is responsible for redistricting and HOW the process is conducted. A few cities have appointed commissions. Many city and county district lines are redrawn by the sitting government body (just as the state and federal districts in California were redrawn by the legislature prior to 2011).

General law cities

The process is outlined in the state Elections Code, 21600-21606.

What is the process?

 The important thing to remember is that the redistricting criteria and open meeting notifications mandated for the state redistricting commission do not necessarily apply at the local level. The Brown Act governs meetings of local legislative bodies. Determine exactly what the rules are for meeting notices and how much notice is mandated for your local government bodies that are involved in redistricting.

Find out who did the redistricting after the 2000 census and contact them to learn more about how the process worked in 2001. Deadlines for redistricting and other criteria may be determined by local governing documents. Others, as required by state law, have to finish by November 1, 2011 (or March 1, 2012 for school and community college districts). Many are starting soon and some have already begun.

How can I participate in local redistricting?

Find out who is drawing the maps for districts and what information besides the census they are using to make their determinations about where lines should be drawn. Ask your county registrar and county superintendent of schools. In addition, you can consult your county counsel, city clerk, city attorney, special district managers or legal departments for information about local redistricting. 

Regardless of what the rules and notice requirements are, you can advocate locally for an open, transparent process, extensive public input and recognition of neighborhoods and communities of interest in the redistricting process.