New Guide Brings Redistricting Out into the Open

July 10, 2008

Brennan Center for JusticeGeorge Mason University

The Joyce Foundation

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, George Mason University, and the Joyce Foundation are pleased to announce the release of A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting, authored by Brennan Center counsel Justin Levitt.

The Citizen’s Guide is a comprehensive look at the rules for drawing district lines, including a description of how redistricting works today, how it could work in the future, and why redistricting reform matters. It presents easy-to-follow graphics as well as in-depth, state-by-state analysis of different redistricting processes.

In most states, legislative district lines are drawn by the legislators themselves. Done poorly, it can unfairly favor incumbents, dilute minority votes, and split communities apart. Redistricting determines which communities are represented and how vigorously, which in turn helps determine which laws are passed by the legislature.

The release of the Citizen’s Guide is the first phase of a comprehensive public education campaign in partnership with the Midwest Democracy Network (MDN), an alliance of civic and political reform advocacy groups in Illinois , Michigan , Minnesota , Ohio and Wisconsin . “Redistricting often happens outside the public eye,” says Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and MDN spokesperson. “A Citizen’s Guide is meant to be an ‘owners’ manual for voters, who should have more control over the process.”

Catherine Turcer, director of Ohio Citizen Action’s Money in Politics Project says, "This guide will be a key part of our educational effort as we push for more accountability from our elected officials.  Voters should choose their representatives, rather than their representatives choosing them.  Redistricting generally occurs only every ten years and with little public participation. It’s time that we focus attention on the process."

The Brennan Center is a leader in the fight for just and equitable redistricting procedures across the country. It currently counsels advocates across the country on how best to maximize their goals of diversity, accountability, and fairness through redistricting reform.

Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at George Mason University who will publish a companion piece to the guide that makes sense of redistricting criteria, calls the guide, “a remarkable achievement that comes just in time for the impending flurry of redistricting activity following the 2010 census.”

Based in Chicago with assets of $930 million, the Joyce Foundation promotes comprehensive political reform in the Midwest through support for state-based advocacy organizations, scholars, and legal experts who are seeking to address problems related to campaign finance, election laws and administration, redistricting, government ethics, voting rights, judicial selection and conduct, and open government.

To order a copy of A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting please contact Jafreen Uddin at (212) 998-6752 or email redistricting@nyu.edu. A PDF of the guide is also available on the Brennan Center’s website.