Legal requirements

Federal and state law provide clear guidelines for how local governments draw their district lines. When drawing district lines, local governments must comply with the requirements established by the United States Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the FAIR MAPS Act of 2019 (AB 849).

Population equality

Each district should have around the same number of residents. A standard for California local legislative districts has been that the total population deviation should not exceed 10% or +/- 5%.

Equal Population: There are 4 districts and 5 residents in each district.

Over time, district population can and naturally do become uneven.

Every 10 years, the lines have to be redrawn to make them even after the US Census.

Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965

Districts cannot dilute a racial minority’s vote when:

1) the racial minority is big enough to make up a majority in one district

2) the minority group is politically cohesive

3) the majority votes as a bloc to consistently defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate

There are 4 brown people and 12 grey people with entire population of 16. Over all 1/4 are brown, and they are the minorities.

When all criteria is met, the law requires to create a district in which minorities are a majority and can choose their own representative.

Unfair redistricting can take away voting rights from the minority.

Minorities make up only ¼ of each district. They are not likely to choose their own representative.

However, fair redistricting can empower a minority community to elect representative of their choice.

Minorities make up ¾ of blue district, and can choose their own.

Ranked Criteria

In 2019, the FAIR MAPS Act created the ranked criteria for local redistricting. Redistricting requires making choices among competing interests, which opens the door to manipulation. Applying criteria that are ranked in order of priority minimizes opportunities for abuse and helps to promote a process that will result in a more representative democracy. These are mandate for counties and cities, and discretionary for school boards and special districts.

#1 Contiguity

All parts of a district must be physically connected to each other.

A district is contiguous if you can travel from any point in the district to any other point in the district without crossing the district’s boundary. Areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous. Areas that are separated by water and not connected by a bridge, tunnel, or regular ferry service are not contiguous.

#2 Community of Interest

The geographic integrity of any local neighborhood or local community of interest shall be respected in a manner that minimizes its division.

A “community of interest” is a population that shares common social or economic interests that should be included within a single supervisorial district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Communities of interest do not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates. Communities of interest do not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.

How to define your community

Where is your community located? Describe the boundaries of the community - streets (railways, freeways), landmarks, natural boundaries (hills, waters).

What brings your community together? - what binds it as a community or neighborhood. Some examples:

  • Shared interests in schools, housing, community safety, transit, health care, land use, environmental concerns;

  • Common social and civic networks, including churches, mosques, temples, homeowner associations, and community centers, and shared use of community spaces, like parks and shopping centers;

  • Racial and ethnic compositions, cultural identities, and households that predominantly speak a language other than English;

  • Similar socio-economic status, including but not limited to income, home-ownership, and education levels;

  • Shared political boundary lines from other jurisdictions, such as school districts, community college districts, and water districts.

What neighboring areas would be best to combine your community with?

#3 Integrity

Cities and other census designated area (e.g., unincorporated territories) should be kept whole and/or divided as little as possible.

#4 Identifiable by residents

Districts follow easily identifiable natural and manmade boundaries, such as streets, creeks, hills, highways, and rail lines for residents to identify and understand.

#5 Compactness

District lines should be predictable and not too elongated or spread out or too jagged. Nearby areas of population are not bypassed in favor of more distant populations.

#6 No favoritism

No partisan favoritism or discrimination. Unfortunately favoritism to and against incumbents and/or candidates are not legaly restricted in local redistricting.

Public Outreach and Transparency Requirements

The Fair Maps Act also defines what is required in the redistricting process. Cities and counties should ensure that the local redistricting process is accessible and transparent to all residents. By taking active steps to encourage robust public participation, cities and counties will have stronger community of interest testimony and be better equipped to draw district maps that reflect the needs of their diverse constituents.


At least four public hearings that enable community members to provide input on the drawing of district maps:

  • At least one hearing must occur before the city or county draws draft maps.

  • At least two hearings must happen after the drawing of draft maps.

  • The fourth hearing can happen either before or after the drawing of draft maps.

To increase the accessibility of these hearings, cities and counties must take the following steps:

  • At least one hearing must occur on a Saturday, Sunday, or after 6 p.m. on a weekday.

  • If a redistricting hearing is consolidated with another local government meeting, the redistricting hearing portion must begin at a pre-designated time.

  • Local public redistricting hearings should be made accessible to people with disabilities.

There is flexibility around how local redistricting hearings are conducted:

  • City or county staff or consultants may hold a public workshop instead of one of the required public redistricting hearings.

  • Alternatively, local governments can designate an advisory commission to carry out the redistricting hearing required before draft maps are released.


Cities and counties must offer live translation of public redistricting hearings or workshops in applicable languages (defined below) if a request is made at least 72 hours in advance. If less than five days’ notice is given for the hearing, then cities and counties must be prepared to fulfill translation requests received at least 48 hours in advance.

“Applicable Languages”

  • For cities, applicable language refers to “any language that is spoken by a group of city residents with limited English proficiency who constitute 3 percent or more of the city’s total population over four years of age for whom language can be determined.” Cities can find the list of applicable languages for their city by visiting the Secretary of State’s local redistricting website.

  • For counties, applicable language refers to any language that the county must provide translated ballots in under Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.


In order to engage underrepresented and non-English speaking communities in the local redistricting process, cities and counties must make a good faith effort to do the following:

  • Share information about the local redistricting process with media organizations that cover news in that jurisdiction, including media organizations that reach language minority communities.

  • Share information via good government, civil rights, civic engagement, and community groups/organizations that are active in the jurisdiction, including groups that are actively involved in language minority communities.

Public Feedback

  • Members of the public must be allowed to submit testimony and draft maps electronically or via writing.


  • The date, time, and location for any public redistricting hearings or workshops should be noticed on the internet at least five days in advance, although local governments can publish the agenda online at least three days in advance if fewer than 28 days before the deadline to adopt the maps.

  • Draft maps must be published on the internet at least seven days before adoption, although the draft map may be published online at least three days in advance if there are fewer than 28 days before the deadline to adopt the maps.

  • Each draft map prepared by the city or county must be accompanied by the following information: total population, citizen voting age population (CVAP), and racial and ethnic characteristics of the citizen voting age population of each proposed district.


  • Cities and counties must provide an audio or audiovisual recording or a written summary of public comment and council deliberations at all public redistricting hearings or workshops. The recording or written summary must be made available within two weeks after the public hearing or workshop.


  • Cities and counties should create a dedicated redistricting web page and maintain it for at least ten years following the adoption of new district boundaries. This web page should include:

○ An explanation of the redistricting process for that jurisdiction in English and applicable languages.
○ Procedures for a member of the public to offer verbal testimony during a public hearing or submit written testimony directly to the governing body in English and applicable languages.
○ A calendar that lists the dates of all public redistricting hearings and workshops.
○ The notice and agenda for each public hearing and workshop.
○ Either the recording or written summary of each public hearing and workshop.
○ Each draft map that the city or county considers at public hearings.
○ The final adopted district map of the city or county.