What is redistricting?

Defining the process and its history

Breaking down redistricting

Redistricting is the process where district lines are redrawn to reflect the U.S.Census data every 10 years. This includes drawing districts for Congress, State Board of Equalization, State Senate, State Assembly, county boards of supervisors, city councils, school boards, and special district boards. This applies only to local governments that elect representatives by district, and not to those for which the representatives serve at-large.


In November 2008, California voters passed the "Voters FIRST Act", authorizing the creation of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw new district lines, taking the job out of the hands of the California Legislature and transferring it to the citizens. In 2010, the "Voters FIRST Act for Congress" added the responsibility of drawing Congressional districts to the Commission. CA voters rejected the effort to revert the progress defeating props 27 in 2010, and 40 in 2012.

Of all the states that have experimented with alternatives to redistricting by elected officials, California was the most distinctive, dedicated to removing as completely as possible the role of incumbent politicians in drawing their own district lines.

In 2016, SB 1108 was passed to authorize all California counties and general law cities to establish independent citizen commissions to redraw district lines, instead of leaving this power to electorally self-interested incumbents.

In 2018, SB 1018 amended the SB 1108 on two matters:

-Commissions may be used for an initial districting and not simply a redistricting.

-Hybrid commissions, where both the local government and commission share authority in adopting final maps, must meet the same standards of independence and transparency required of independent commissions.

AB 849 (Bonta), known as the Fair And Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities And Political Subdivisions (FAIR MAPS) Act, passed in 2019 to improve and standardize the local redistricting process and incorporate best practices that California already uses for redistricting at the state level. Local governments now have clearer guidelines around the drawing of district maps to ensure fairness and prohibit partisan gerrymandering. The FAIR MAPS Act also created public outreach and transparency requirements to ensure that all communities know about and can directly shape the drawing of their city or county’s district lines.

The People’s Map Act, SB 139, which was regrettably vetoed by Governor Newsom, would have required large counties to create independent redistricting commissions to draw district lines.

Gerrymandering happens when the election district boundaries are drawn in a way that gives a particular set of people - like a political party or racial group, or persons - like incumbents or candidates, an unfair political advantage over another. Even though local government is nonpartisan, the local line-drawing process could result to disenfranchise growing racial and language minority communities, and to reduce the voting power of political minorities. Today local redistricting process is up to local government bodies, and this is why our coalition is formed to ensure the redistricting process is fair and transparent resulting a map that represents and reflects our diverse population.