NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reapportionment, Redistricting And Race After The 2000 Census

January 17, 2001

Every 10 years, as required by the Constitution, each state must redraw the boundaries of its congressional districts to ensure that they are of equal population. The ritual will begin in April after the new census data is out.

Observers predict that in this go-around practically every redistricting plan will wind up in court.

Here's why:

  • Under a 1982 amendment to the Voting Rights Act, state legislatures are prohibited from drawing districts in a way that abridges a citizen's right to vote "on account of race or color."
  • But this obligation runs smack into a series of Supreme Court decisions over the past eight years that have held that race can't be a predominant factor in designing political districts and that hint the Court will look askance at any districts that are gerrymandered to give specific minorities a stronger voting bloc.
  • As a result, states are confused, minorities are likely to claim legislatures have violated the Voting Rights Act, and Republicans who don't like the results will claim the states have ignored the Supreme Court.
  • Add to that cauldron allegations of minority voter suppression that hang over several states, and you have the recipe for a huge legal fracas.

Due to the reapportionment of representatives among the states, based on the census, 10 states will lose at least one House seat this year, and eight will gain at least one.

Source: Lorraine Woellert, "Where Do You Draw the Line?" Business Week, January 15, 2001.


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