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Glossary of Redistricting and Related Terms

for the People Powered Fair Districts for New Mexico Project

Apportionment: The process of assigning seats in a legislative body among pre-existing political subdivisions, such as states or counties. The League believes that congressional districts and government legislative bodies should be apportioned substantially on population and recognized by the Supreme Court.

At-large:When a district elects more than one member, all candidates run against each other on one ballot, and they are elected by the whole population of the district.

Ballot Measure: A ballot measure is a piece of proposed legislation to be approved or rejected by eligible voters. Ballot measures are a form of direct democracy, as opposed to legislation passed by representatives. Ballot initiatives, proposals, and referendums are all types of ballot measures.

Ballot Initiative or Referendum: A certain percent of voters is needed to validate a measure and be accepted on the ballot in an election. That number varies based on state and the number of signatures needed to get a ballot measure on the ballot. Also applies to referendums.

Campaign: An organized, purposeful effort to create a particular change.

Census: A complete count or enumeration of the population; the federal census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, section 2. Since 1988, the League has worked with state and local Leagues to encourage full participation in the census and to ensure that subsequent reapportionment and redistricting complied with one-person, one-vote requirements and the Voting Rights Act.

Census block: The smallest and lowest level of geography defined for decennial census tables. The Census Bureau provides redistricting data down to the block level, which is the lowest level of census geography. Blocks can have any population, including no people.

Census Bureau: The government agency responsible for the United States Census and gathers other national demographic and economic data. As part of the United States Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau serves as a leading source of data about America's people and economy.

Census tract: Set of block groups combined to create a unit of census geography delineated by local committees in accordance with census bureau guidelines for the purpose of collecting and presenting decennial census data.

Civic Engagement: The process of working to make a difference in the civic life of communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. The promotion of improved quality of life in a community occurs through both political and non-political processes.

Commission: A statutory or constitutional body charged with researching, advising or enacting policy. Redistricting commissions have been used to draw districts for legislatures and Congress.

Communities of interest: Geographical areas, such as neighborhoods of a city or regions of a state, where the residents have common demographic and/or political interests that do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of a political subdivision, such as a city or county.

Compactness: Having the minimum distance between all the parts of a constituency (a circle, square or a hexagon are examples of very compact district). Various methods have been developed to measure compactness.

Contiguity: All parts of a district being connected geographically at some point with the rest of the district. Limits on contiguity are outlined in Impact on Issues.

Coalition: An alliance for combined action, especially a temporary alliance of political parties forming a government or of states.

Cracking —A term used when the electoral strength of a group is divided by or “diluted” within a redistricting plan

Criteria: The standards of a redistricting plan is based and should be judged must: (1 be enforceable in court; (2) require substantially equal population; geographic contiguity; and effective representation of racial and linguistic minorities. Criteria should also provide for promotion of partisan fairness, preservation and protection of “communities of interest” and respect boundaries of municipalities and counties. Compactness and competitiveness can be considered if it doesn’t conflict with the above criteria. Redistricting plans should explicitly reject protection of incumbents and preferential political party treatment.

Dilution: Reduction in the voting strength of a group within a redistricting plan. The phrase "minority vote dilution" describes racial minorities being in a position of not being able to elect candidates of choice.

District: The boundaries that define the constituency from which a public official is elected.

Federal Legislative Fixes: Federal legislative fixes for this campaign are bills passed by the U.S. House and Senate and signed by the President, which create a fix for gerrymandering nationwide. Examples of qualifying legislation include the For the People Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Gerrymander: A term of art coined in early 19th century to describe a plan or a district intentionally drawn to advantage one group or party over another, sometimes identified by bizarre shapes. There are several types: partisan (disenfranchises base on political party affiliation), racial (disenfranchises based upon race), prison (disenfranchising people based on where they are incarcerated instead of their home address).

GIS: Geographic Information System. Computer software used for creating or revising plans and analyzing geographically oriented data.

Incumbent protection: Drawing a district to aid the incumbent with reelection.

Independent Redistricting Commissions: The League supports independent redistricting commissions as the most transparent and responsible way to draft and implement electoral district maps. Independent restricting commissions should consist of membership that reflects the diversity of the unit of government, including citizens at large, representatives of public interest groups, and members of minority groups. (See Impact on Issues)

Legislative body: Any entity that performs governmental legislative duties and whose membership is elected by the people; aka representational body.

Majority-minority districts: Term used by courts for seats where a group or a single racial or language minority constitutes a majority of the population. (These are also referred to as “effective districts.”)

One person, one vote: A constitutional standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court that means all districts for representational bodies should be approximately equal in population. The degree of equality may vary in congressional plans vs legislative/local plans.

Packing: A term used when one group is consolidated as a super-majority in a smaller number of districts, thus reducing its electoral influence in nearby districts.

Partnerships: An association of two or more individuals or a group coming together for a shared goal or outcome around redistricting reform relevant to their state and communities.

Population: The total number of people, including noncitizens and children, who reside in a jurisdiction.

Power Mapping: The process of power mapping is a visual chart to identify the best individual targets to advance our goals. Power mapping determines who the decision makers are in the community that are required to build momentum. It also identifies who are the people who can influence the decision makers and move them in our direction.

Public Participation: Any individual or group activity working to address an issue or multiple issues of public concern.

Redistricting: The redrawing or revision of boundaries for representational districts.

State Constitutional Options: These options are court cases that challenge the practice of gerrymandering or establish fair redistricting reform based on a “free and fair” clause in a state’s constitution. Cases like LWVPA v. Commonwealth give hope for the state-level fight for fair elections. When the League challenged Pennsylvania’s congressional districts as unconstitutional under their state constitution, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in their favor. The use of Pennsylvania’s state constitution established a framework for a state constitutional standard to measure extreme partisan gerrymandering. With this framework, partisan gerrymandering can be battled out in state courts by leveraging similar constitutional clauses

State Legislative Fixes: This is a fix through state legislative bodies that will establish fair redistricting processes in the state. LWV will track state legislation that could advance or hinder the redistricting process. Where there are productive bills that make redistricting more transparent, the League will work to advance that legislation. Where there are bills that shorten the window for a map, limit public content (other bad things), the League will work to fight such legislation. Making sure implementation of redistricting is protected. In this fix, Leagues will testify on the redistricting process. Any tinkering of the process will happen in early 2020 – drawing of the lines and implementation FY21, first quarter 2021. Leagues will call for transparency, an open process, and prohibition of lobbyist influence.

Unity Maps: Where multiple organizations with different interests come together during a redistricting cycle to either create a mutually-agreeable map for presentation and submission as part of the redistricting process or where groups work together to identify the best map to accomplish a shared goal as part of the redistricting process.