Redistricting commission

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Congressional redistricting methods by state after the 2010 census:
     State legislatures control redistricting
     Commissions control redistricting
     Nonpartisan staff develop the maps, which are then voted on by the state legislature
     No redistricting due to having only one congressional district

In the United States of America, a redistricting commission is a body, other than the usual state legislative bodies, established to draw electoral district boundaries. Generally the intent is to avoid gerrymandering, or at least the appearance of gerrymandering, by specifying a nonpartisan or bipartisan body to comprise the commission drawing district boundaries. However, a number of these commissions, much like some state boards of election, are set up to give the majority party more seats on the commission, or effective control of the commission.

Nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions as of 2010[edit]

Currently, 21 U.S. states have some form of non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commission.[1] Of these 21 states, 13 use redistricting commissions to exclusively draw electoral district boundaries (see below).[1] A 14th state, Iowa, uses a special redistricting process that uses neither the state legislature nor an independent redistricting commission to draw electoral district boundaries (see below).

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission that redistricting commissions such as Arizona's, whose redistricting commission process is independent of the state legislature, were constitutional.[2]

Table Key – For purposes of this table:

  • Bipartisan means a substantial majority of the commission's membership is reserved for members of the two major U.S. political parties.
  • Non-partisan means that either, a) the partisan makeup of the commission is not specified beforehand, or b) a substantial portion (i.e. more than one) of the membership of the commission is reserved for political independents or members of so-called Third Parties.
State & Commission Commission Jurisdiction Commission Type & Voting # of
Member Selection Criteria & Process[1] Legal Authority
Commissions Responsible for Congressional & Legislative Redistricting:
Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Congressional & Legislative districts Bipartisan;
5 The commission on appellate court appointees creates a pool of 25 nominees, ten from each of the two largest parties and five not from either of the two largest parties. The highest-ranking officer of the House appoints one from the pool, then the minority leader of the House appoints one, then the highest-ranking officer of the Senate appoints one, then the minority leader of the Senate appoints one. These four appoint a fifth from the pool, not a member of any party already represented on the commission, as chair. If the four deadlock, the commission on appellate court appointments appoints the chair. Arizona Constitution
Article 4, pt. 2, § 1[3]
California Citizens Redistricting Commission Congressional, Legislative, BoE districts Non-partisan;
super-majority (majority of each group) needed
14 The Commission was established in 2010 and consists of 14 members: 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 members from neither party. Government auditors select 60 registered voters from an applicant pool. Legislative leaders can reduce the pool; the auditors then pick 8 commission members by lottery, and those commissioners pick six additional members for the 14 total. For approval, district boundaries need votes from 3 Democratic commissioners, 3 Republican commissioners, and 3 commissioners from neither party. California Constitution
Article XXI[4]
Hawaii Congressional & Legislative districts Bipartisan;
9 No commission member may run for the legislature in the two elections following redistricting. President of the Senate selects two; Speaker of the House selects two. Members of each house belonging to the party or parties different from that of the president or the speaker shall designate one of their number for each house, and the two so designated shall each select two [more?] members of the commission. These eight select the ninth member, who is the chair. Hawaii Constitution
Article IV[5]
Idaho Congressional & Legislative districts Bipartisan;
2/3 super-majority required
6 Leaders of two largest political parties in each house of the legislature each designate one member; chairs of the two parties whose candidates for governor received the most votes in the last election each designate one member. No member may be an elected or appointed official in the state at the time of designation. Idaho Constitution
Article III, § 2[6]
Montana Legislative districts (& Congressional [currently moot]) Bipartisan;
5 No member may be a public employee or official; members cannot run for public office in the two years after the completion of redistricting. Majority and minority leaders of both houses of the Legislature each select one member; those four select a fifth, who is the chair of the commission. Montana Constitution
Article IV, § 14[7]
New Jersey Redistricting Commission (Congressional) & Apportionment Commission (Legislative) Congressional & Legislative districts Bipartisan;
majority rules
10 (or 11)
Redistricting Commission: The commission has 13 members. The President of the Senate and Assembly Speaker each name two members; the minority leaders of both houses each name two members; and the state's Democratic and Republican party chairpersons each name two members. The 12 members then select a 13th "tie-breaking" member to chair the commission; if they cannot agree on the 13th member, then each party submits a name to the state's Supreme Court, which then chooses one of the submissions as the 13th member.
Apportionment Commission: The chairs of the two major parties each select five members. If these 10 members cannot develop a plan in the allotted time, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court will appoint an 11th member.
New Jersey Constitution
Article II, Sec. II[8] & Article IV, Sec. III[9]
Washington Redistricting Commission Congressional & Legislative districts Bipartisan;
majority (of 4) rules
(only 4 voting)
No elected official and no person elected to legislative district, county, or state political party office may serve on the commission. Majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate each select one. These four select a non-voting fifth to chair the commission. If they fail to do so by January 1, 2001, the state Supreme Court will select the fifth by February 5, 2001. No commission member may be a public official. Washington Constitution
Article II, § 43[10]
Commissions Responsible for Legislative Redistricting only:
Alaska Legislative districts Non-partisan;
5 No member may be a public employee or official. Governor appoints two; president of the Senate appoints one; speaker of the House appoints one; chief justice of the Supreme Court appoints one. At least one member must be a resident of each judicial district. Alaska Constitution
Article 6[11]
Arkansas Legislative districts Non-partisan;
3 Commission consists of the state's Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. Arkansas Constitution
Article 6[12]
Colorado Legislative districts Non-partisan;
Colorado Supreme Court must approve
11 Legislature selects four: (speaker of the House; House minority leader; Senate majority and minority leaders; or their delegates). Governor selects three. Judiciary selects four. Maximum of four from the legislature. Each congressional district must have at least one person, but no more than two people representing it on the commission. At least one member must live west of the Continental Divide. Colorado Constitution
Article 5, § 48[13]
Missouri Legislative districts Bipartisan;
super-majorities required
Senate: 10
House: 18
No commission member may hold office in the legislature for four years after redistricting. There are two separate redistricting committees, one for each chamber of the Legislature. Governor picks one person from each list of two submitted by the two main political parties in each congressional district to form the House committee; Governor picks five people from two lists of 10 submitted by the two major political parties in the state to form the Senate committee. Missouri Constitution
Article III, § 2[14] & § 7[15]
Ohio Legislative districts Non-partisan;
majority rules
5 Board consists of the Governor, Auditor, Secretary of State, and two people selected by the legislative leaders of each major political party. Ohio Constitution
Article XI, § 1[16]
Pennsylvania Legislative districts Bipartisan;
majority rules
5 Majority and minority leaders of the legislative houses each select one member. These four select a fifth to chair. If they fail to do so within 45 days, a majority of the state Supreme Court will select the fifth member. The chair cannot be a public official. Pennsylvania Constitution
Article II, § 17[17]

Iowa is a special case:

State Redistricting Jurisdiction Redistricting Type Redistricting Process[1] Legal Authority
Iowa Congressional & Legislative districts Non-partisan Iowa conducts redistricting unlike any other state. The Iowa system does not put the task in the hands of a commission, but rather non-partisan legislative staff develop maps for the Iowa House and Senate, as well as U.S. House districts, without any political or election data (including the addresses of incumbents). A 5-person advisory commission is also formed. This is different from all other states.[1] The redistricting plans from the non-partisan legislative staff are then presented to the Iowa Legislature for a straight 'Up' or 'Down' vote; if the Legislature rejects the redistricting plans, the process starts over. (Eventually, the Iowa Supreme Court will enter the process if the Legislature fails to adopt a plan three times.) Detailed descriptions of the Iowa system are available from the Iowa Legislature.[18][19] Iowa Constitution
Article III, § 37,[20] and
Article III, § 34, § 35, § 36 & § 38[20]

Additionally, Maine and Vermont use advisory committees for redistricting.[1] Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas use backup redistricting commissions, if efforts at redistricting via the usual legislative process fail.[1]

2021 redistricting[edit]

In 2021, following the 2020 Census, multiple states will begin using new, non-partisan commissions or systems to redraw their legislative and/or congressional districts

State Commission Jurisdiction Commission Type No. of members Appointment procedures and Process Ballot Name
Colorado congressional districts non-partisan 12 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, 4 unaffiliated voters; every congressional district will be represented; half will be chosen randomly; half will be chosen by a panel of judges considering factors such as gender, geography, ethnicity

District boundaries will be drawn by independent legislative staff.

To approve a new map, eight of the 12 members must vote in favor of it, including at least 2 unaffiliated members.[21]

Amendment Y (2018)
legislative districts non-partisan 12 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, 4 unaffiliated voters; every congressional district will be represented; half will be chosen randomly; half will be chosen by a panel of judges considering factors such as gender, geography, ethnicity

District boundaries will be drawn by independent legislative staff.

To approve a new map, eight of the 12 members must vote in favor of it, including at least 2 unaffiliated members.[21]

Amendment Z (2018)
Michigan congressional and legislative districts non-partisan 13 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 5 members who identify with neither party; no member can be a partisan officeholder, an employee of such an officeholder, or a lobbyist

The commission will have final say over the entire process of redistricting.[22]

Proposal 2 (2018)
Utah congressional, legislative, and State school board districts non-partisan 7 1 member appointed by the Governor; 3 appointed by the Republican leaders of the Utah Legislature, 3 appointed by the Democratic leaders of the Utah Legislature; members cannot have participated in certain political activities for 4 or 5 years prior to their appointment

The commission is required to hold open, public meetings and to create maps that meet the standards set out in Proposition 4. They would then send their proposal(s) to the state legislature, which can choose to accept or reject the map(s). The Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court will recommend one or more maps to the legislature. The legislature is still allowed to propose maps, but the commission retains the right to review them, and voters could sue to block the implementation of a plan in violation of Prop 4's requirements.[23][24]

Proposition 4 (2018)
Non-commission processes
Missouri congressional and legislative districts non-partisan N/A A new, nonpartisan position of State Demographer is created, to be selected from an applicant pool by the State Auditor, state Senate majority leader, and the state Senate minority leader. The demographer cannot have been a partisan elected official in the past 4 years, and cannot hold office in the General Assembly for 4 years after their last redistricting process.

The State Demographer will be responsible for drawing district maps that accurately reflect party support in previous elections, and new districts will be judged more on "partisan fairness" and "competitiveness" than being geographically compact. The goal will be to make the number of seats won by a party more accurately reflect the statewide vote.

The existing commissions (one each for state senate, state house, and U.S. House) may propose changes, but those must be approved by 70% of the commissioners and must adhere to the amendment's criteria.[25]

Amendment 1 (2018)
Ohio congressional districts Bi-partisan a) entire legislature

b) 7-member commission

Redistricted maps for congressional districts will require support of 60% of members in both the Ohio House and Senate, including 1/2 of members in the minority party.

If the legislature cannot agree, a 7-member commission including the Governor, Auditor, Secretary of State, and 4 legislators (2 from each party), will take responsibility.

Should that commission be unable to reach an agreement, the legislature resumes control of the process, but will have lower thresholds for passing a plan (albeit with stricter rules).[26]

Issue 1 (2018)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "2009 Redistricting Commission Table". National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). June 28, 2008. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  2. ^ "ARIZONA STATE LEGISLATURE v. ARIZONA INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION ET AL" (pdf). Supreme Court of the United States. June 29, 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
  3. ^ "Arizona State Legislature". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  7. ^ "Constitution of Montana -- Article V -- THE LEGISLATURE – Section 14". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  10. ^ "Washington State Constitution". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  11. ^ "Alaska Constitution - Article 6 - Legislative Apportionment". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  12. ^ "Constitution of the State of Arkansas of 1874" (pdf). pp. 38–39. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  13. ^ "Colo. Const. Art. V, Section 48 - COLORADO REVISED STATUTES". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  14. ^ "Missouri Constitution Article III LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT Section 2". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  15. ^ "Missouri Constitution Article III LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT Section 7". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  16. ^ "The Ohio Constitution [The 1851 Constitution with Amendments to 2011]". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  17. ^ "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  18. ^ "The Iowa Legislature - Iowa Redistricting - About Redistricting in Iowa". The Iowa Legislature. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  19. ^ "LEGISLATIVE GUIDE TO REDISTRICTING IN IOWA" (pdf). The Iowa Legislature. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  20. ^ a b "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  21. ^ a b "Colorado election: Amendments Y and Z pass, changing the way Colorado does redistricting". Coloradoan. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  22. ^ "Michigan voters approve anti-gerrymandering Proposal 2". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  23. ^ "A voter's guide to Proposition 4: redistricting in Utah". KSLNewsRadio. 2018-11-02. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  24. ^ "They've wiped out Prop 2 and Prop 3, but lawmakers say Utah's anti-gerrymandering initiative may survive — for now". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  25. ^ Producer, JJ Bailey, Digital Content. "Voters approve Missouri Amendment 1, overhauling redistricting process and campaign finance". Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  26. ^ "Ohio voters just approved Issue 1 to curb gerrymandering in Congress". Retrieved 2019-02-20.