PIECE BY PIECE: There's still time to learn the basics of redisricting before you tackle the really tough stuff.

Author:Zamarripa, Christi
Position:REDISRICTING - Column

When a jigsaw puzzle is missing a piece or two, you can never fully complete the picture.

The same is true for redistricting, which is among the most challenging puzzles lawmakers must solve. But, just as there are tricks for completing a tough jigsaw--sorting pieces by shape or color, starting in simple areas of the picture--there are proven strategies for successful redistricting.

Whether you're a beginner or an old pro, these tips can help you get your pieces organized and complete your state's picture.

Get Prepared

How are redistricting, line-drawing and mapmaking different? They're not. The terms all refer to the process of carving up a jurisdiction, such as a state, into districts for elected officials to represent. The tricky part is that the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment requires districts to be of equal population to ensure that political power is distributed evenly in the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures and other elected entities. The goal, in short, is "one person, one vote."

The U.S. Census Bureau begins its decennial count on April 1, 2020, gathering the statewide population data that will determine the number of seats each state is qualified to hold in the U.S. House. (Some states have created complete count committees and devoted resources to ensuring their residents are fully counted. Other states still have time to act.)

By April 2021, the Census Bureau must release detailed data to the states under Public Law 94-171. This is the data necessary for redistricting. Most states will complete their maps no later than spring 2022 to meet candidate filing deadlines for the biennial elections.

States with legislative elections in odd-numbered years get their census data first and must rush to be ready for fall 2021 elections.

Manage Your Time

The amount of time it takes to redistrict depends on many things, including the prep work states do before the census data are released. Each state--traditionally, its legislature--is responsible for drawing its legislative and congressional district boundaries. Fourteen states have shifted primary responsibility for legislative redistricting to a board or commission. In eight states, commissions draw congressional lines as well. Advisory commissions in six states and backup commissions in five take over if lawmakers fail to adopt legislative maps of their own. For congressional maps, five states have advisory commissions, three have backups.

2018 was a year of change...

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