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How Can Members of the Public Contribute in the Redistricting Process?

In the previous redistricting cycle, map drawing technology was available to and understood by only consultants and party insiders. In 2021, sophisticated map drawing capabilities are available to all. You, as a member of the public, may have decided to participate in the redistricting process in a variety of capacities depending on your state/locality. You may have been invited to propose maps of your own to redistricting authorities, asked to comment on proposed plans, or criticize an existing plan. Even at the local level, your participation in the redistricting process may prove crucial in ensuring fair outcomes.

Though you have been permitted to comment on or even present maps of your own, it is important to know who is ultimately responsible for approving the redistricting plan in your jurisdiction. In congressional redistricting, State legislatures usually control the process. At the local level, there may be a board or governing body comprised of incumbents or other community leaders who make the final decision. If you are part of a redistricting commission, your commission most likely falls into one of three broad categories: (1) Commissions with primary responsibility for redistricting, (2) Advisory commission that draw and submit maps to the legislature or other governing body, which is ultimately responsible for approving a final plan, or (3) Backup commissions that are formed if the legislature/other governing body fails to meet a redistricting deadline.

The same principles that apply to state and congressional redistricting also apply to redistricting at local levels.17 Local redistricting could include city council districts, school board districts, court districts, water districts, and other state entities. The principles above are helpful to consider when drawing or evaluating your plan. The materials presented below will help you put them into practice using a powerful software tool, MORe. MORe makes it easy for citizens without prior GIS or redistricting experience to evaluate existing plans, edit them, or even create new ones. This guide is intended to help you evaluate plans presented to you by legislators, redistricting commissions, or others. For more explicit step by step instructions on how to use MORe, please refer to the Quick Start Guide, the Help or this instructional video from Doug Johnson, President of National Demographics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCpU33wPkNo

17 National Conference of State Legislatures, Redistricting Law 2020, October 2019, Chapter 9.