What is redistricting and why is it done?

Redistricting is the process of redrawing electoral district boundaries. Redistricting applies to all levels of government where district elections are held, including the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, city councils, school committees, and more. 


Redistricting is based on the idea of “one person, one vote”, which makes sure that each of our voices can be represented fairly, by creating districts that have the same number of people. Census data that are collected every ten years are used to draw new maps to account for the ways that populations have changed and moved across the states and districts. 


Why is it important?  

How district lines are drawn influences who runs for public office and who is elected. Elected representatives make decisions that are important to our lives, from ensuring safe schools to adopting immigration policies. Who lives in a district can influence whether elected officials feel obligated to respond to a community’s needs. The district boundaries are in place for the next ten years, and their policy impacts can last well beyond that.


Why should my community be involved?

Redistricting has been used at times to exclude communities from political power. By fully participating in and monitoring the upcoming redistricting process, underrepresented communities will have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice and voice their needs and interests.  District boundaries are generally drawn once every 10 years, so this process has long-term effects on community representation.   


Who is in charge of redistricting?

In Massachusetts, the state legislature is responsible for drawing congressional districts and state legislative districts in 2021. Local governments are responsible for redistricting their own districts in 2022. 


When does redistricting take place?

The Census Bureau will release data for redistricting in early 2021. The state legislature draws districts at the Congressional and state level the year after the census, and local governments will redraw their districts in 2022.

Things to know:


Gerrymandering –– the process of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair advantage over opposing parties which voters across political leanings share disapproval of. It can be very difficult to understand and explain, but the following infographics are very helpful to clear up any confusion around the process.

Packing and Cracking –– The two gerrymandering methods to achieve the goal of gaining power for a political party that is unfair based on the vote share between the said party and opposing parties. "Packing" compacts voters of the opposing party into a small number of districts, to grant few overwhelming wins. The remaining members of the victim party are then "cracked," spread across a large number of districts so that they consistently lose by only gaining just under 50% of the collective votes.


Learn more about redistricting: