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What is Redistricting?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Redistricting is a process that is used to realign the borders of geographical areas within a country. Sometimes referred to as redistribution, the idea behind redistricting is often tied directly to the political process. In many cases, the realignment occurs in order to meet changes in population within the area as noted in a census, making it possible to handle the election of representatives and other government officials more efficiently.

In the United States, many areas are divided into what is known as districts. In theory, each of these districts contains a reasonable amount of the local populace, and makes it possible to have government representatives function on behalf of the citizens who reside within the boundaries of the district. When it comes time to elect new officials, the voting process is carried out in each district, making it easier for the citizens to make use of a polling site that is within relatively easy distance from their homes.

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When the population within a district undergoes a drastic increase or decrease, it is not unusual for the municipality to undergo a process of redistricting. Doing so makes it possible to maintain an equitable balance of representatives who can adequately stand for their constituents in local governmental processes. When a district undergoes a substantial increase in population, the redistricting strategy normally involves splitting an existing district into two entities. In situations where the district has seen a significant decrease in the number of citizens residing within its borders, the redistricting approach often calls for eliminating the district and changing the borders of the surrounding districts to take in various portions of the now dissolved district.

The responsibility for creating a redistricting plan may be overseen and approved by several different government agencies. In some areas, the plan must be approved by a state legislature. In other cases, the plan is formulated and implemented by a bipartisan committee created and authorized to carry out the redistribution. While the actual process varies, the citizens involved are normally kept aware of the impending redistricting and keep informed of the progress.

While the main function of redistricting is to insure that each citizen has sufficient representation in the operation of the local government, the process has been attacked from time to time. In some instances, claims that the redistribution took place in order to dilute the voting strength of one portion of the population indicate that the redistricting was not in the best interest of the citizens. In other instances, claims that the redistribution took place in order to cut costs while providing little or no new benefits to the citizens are also common. Claims of this type are usually reviewed either by special committees or by judicial systems that are in place and have jurisdiction over the geographical areas involved in the dispute.

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