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Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 1 Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff Julia Jackson University of Colorado Denver

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  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 1

    Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff

    Julia Jackson

    University of Colorado Denver

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 2

    Contents Figures ....................................................................................................................................... 3

    Tables ........................................................................................................................................ 3

    Executive Summary ................................................................................................................... 4

    Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 6

    Literature Review ....................................................................................................................... 7

    Major Legal Requirements ...................................................................................................... 9

    Redistricting Mechanisms ......................................................................................................14

    Redistricting Staff ..................................................................................................................19

    Redistricting Technology and Data ........................................................................................21

    Research Questions .................................................................................................................22

    Methodology .............................................................................................................................23

    Results ......................................................................................................................................24

    Process .................................................................................................................................24

    Staff .......................................................................................................................................26

    Technology ............................................................................................................................31

    Resources .............................................................................................................................34

    Discussion and Conclusion .......................................................................................................37

    References ...............................................................................................................................40

    Appendices ...............................................................................................................................43

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 3


    Figure 1: Map of Congressional Redistricting Institutions ..........................................................16 Figure 2: Map of State Legislative Redistricting Institutions .......................................................17 Figure 3: State Deadlines for Completing U.S. Congressional Redistricting ..............................26 Figure 4: State Deadlines for Completing State Legislative Redistricting...................................26 Figure 5: Redistricting Staff Relative to Number of U.S. Congressional Districts .......................27 Figure 6: Average Time Staff Spent Working on Redistricting ...................................................30 Figure 7: When Preparations for the 2020 Redistricting Cycle Begin ........................................31 Figure 8: Usefulness of and Familiarity with NCSL Resources ..................................................35

    Tables Table 1: Active Redistricting Litigation in 2015 ..........................................................................10 Table 2: Mechanisms for State Legislative Redistricting ............................................................15 Table 3: Official Formats of State Legislative Redistricting Plans ..............................................25 Table 4: Change in Redistricting Staff Levels 1990-2010 ..........................................................28 Table 5: Redistricting Expertise For Which States Hired Additional Staff ..................................30 Table 6: Redistricting/GIS Software Used in 1990, 2000, and 2010 ..........................................32 Table 7: Public Input to the Redistricting Process .....................................................................34 Table 8: Redistricting Resources ..............................................................................................36

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 4

    Executive Summary

    This project is designed to help the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL)

    prepare legislators and legislative staff for the 2020 redistricting cycle. We conducted a survey

    of state redistricting staff, contacting all 50 states and receiving at least partial responses from

    47 states (94 percent). The survey data answer critical questions about how the redistricting

    process is staffed and managed in each state. They also assess the quality of NCSLs existing

    redistricting materials and help NCSL determine what other materials might be valuable to its

    member states. Using prior surveys, we were also able to compare staff levels and technology

    choices with the 1990 and 2000 redistricting cycles.

    The survey covered the following areas:

    Overview questions, providing information about the person completing the survey;

    Redistricting process questions, covering legal requirements, records retention, and pending legislation and initiatives;

    Redistricting staff questions, covering the quantity and type of staff assistance used in the 2010 redistricting cycle;

    Redistricting technology questions, covering geographic information system (GIS) vendors and public map submission; and

    Redistricting resource questions, reviewing NCSLs available resources and offering the opportunity to recommend others.

    Survey respondents were primarily nonpartisan legislative staff, the vast majority of whom do

    not work exclusively on redistricting issues. Most respondents worked on the 2010 redistricting


    We found that most states either have redistricting commissions or have considered

    them, that most states spend 6 months to 2 years working on redistricting, and that about half of

    the states hired additional staff specifically for redistricting. Staffing levels correspond loosely to

    the number of congressional districts a state has, but there is a good deal of variation. And

    even though the redistricting technology field has largely consolidated to two vendors, at least

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 5

    half the states will consider switching to a different vendor for the 2020 cycle. Finally,

    respondents were overall familiar with NCSLs existing redistricting resources and find them


    Survey findings provide justification for NCSL support in the redistricting process, even

    though most respondents were confident in their states ability to manage the redistricting

    process. They suggest a continued interest in the creation of redistricting commissions and an

    increased interest in online mapping options, both for staff and the public. Respondents

    expressed a desire for training sessions focused specifically on redistricting staff, with a

    particular interest in GIS training. They also asked that many of NCSLs existing resources be

    updated for 2020.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 6


    The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) "provides research, technical

    assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state

    issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American

    federal system" (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2009). NCSL serves as a resource

    for legislators and legislative staff on a variety of issues, including elections and redistricting.

    NCSLs redistricting and elections program has a staff of three, limiting its ability to research any

    one topic in depth, and in between redistricting cycles, their focus is generally on other issues.

    The program manager, Wendy Underhill, welcomed the opportunity to work with a student

    specifically on redistricting.

    Redistricting comes after reapportionment. The basic law of reapportionment is found in

    Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, as modified by the 14th Amendment, and it is short:

    Representatives [] shall be apportioned among the several states [] according to their

    respective numbers[.] The actual Enumeration shall be made [] within every subsequent term

    of ten Years, in such manner as they shall by law direct (U.S. Const. art. I, 2). Census Day is

    April 1, 2020. After the Census has completed its survey, each state is granted Representatives

    based on its share of the population. This is the reapportionment, and the Census Bureau must

    provide reapportionment data by December 31, 2020. It is then up to the states to draw

    districts for those Representatives. State legislative maps and local jurisdictional maps are also

    usually drawn at this time. Additional redistricting data must be released by April 1, 2021

    (McCully, 2014), after which the states begin redistricting in earnest. This project focuses on

    redistricting as it relates to the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Both functions are usually

    conducted by state legislatures, though some states use a commission process for one or both

    (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2009).

    While much has been written about redistricting, there has been very little focus on its

    administration. As the professional organization for state legislators and legislative staff, NCSL

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 7

    is the ideal organization to report on this. It is also relevant to the field of public administration.

    Since redistricting generally only occurs every ten years, the legislators and staff involved are

    often starting from scratch. Term limits and normal staff turnover mean that many people who

    drew redistricting maps in the 2010 cycle will not be doing so in 2020. For example, Legislative

    Council Staff in Colorado has found that since 1990 when term limits were implemented in the

    state, state representatives serve, on average, 4.8 years, and state senators serve, on average,

    5.4 years (Jackson, 2015).

    NCSL expects other aspects of redistricting administration to change as well. For one,

    the available technology is constantly evolving. For another, with the U.S. Supreme Court

    reaffirming the constitutionality of redistricting commissions (Arizona State Legislature v.

    Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 2015), additional states will likely consider their

    adoption. Since 2015 is the midpoint between redistricting rounds, it is an appropriate time to

    evaluate the 2010 redistricting cycle and the resources that can be prepared for the next.

    This project seeks to help NCSL prepare legislators and legislative staff for the 2020

    redistricting cycle. It uses survey data to answer critical questions about how the redistricting

    process is staffed and managed in each state. It also assesses the quality of NCSLs existing

    redistricting materials and makes recommendations for materials to prepare.

    I begin this report by reviewing the redistricting literature, with a particular focus on three

    areas: major case law, commissions, and technology and data. I then detail my research

    questions and methodology and present the results of my research. Finally, I discuss the

    results and offer a conclusion and recommendations for NCSL.

    Literature Review There are two common themes in the redistricting literature that are by necessity beyond

    the scope of this review: the justiciability of political questions and the role of race. I make this

    distinction because NCSL, along with much of the legislative staff it represents, is a nonpartisan

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 8

    organization. Making a political judgement about redistricting is not a goal of this research.

    However, a basic understanding of these two themes is necessary to understand the scope of

    redistricting literature, so I begin by addressing them briefly before moving into my areas of


    Gerrymandering is a term that comes up frequently when discussing redistricting. The

    term was first coined in 1812, and it can be defined as the process of redrawing district lines to

    increase unduly a groups political power (Levitt, 2010, p6). Researchers have identified a

    number of problems with gerrymandering (An interstate process perspective on political

    gerrymandering, 2006). These problems stem from the idea that voters are not being properly

    represented by their elected representatives, which can occur when a party obtains more seats

    in a legislative body than its share of the overall vote would otherwise provide (Polsby & Popper,

    1991). It is often the result of agency, or entrenchment (Klarman, 1997) problems, where

    legislators draw lines to protect their own chances of election (McConnell, 2000). This further

    leads to noncompetitive districts, which can result in a Congress beset with polarization and

    negative policy outcomes (Cox, 2004).

    Justiciability. Once the harms of gerrymandering are identified, many scholars turn

    their attention to the role of the courts in the redistricting process; whether certain questions are

    justiciable. The articles cited in the above paragraph advocate a robust role of the courts in

    policing against gerrymandering. On the other side are those who believe that the redistricting

    process is inherently political. Fuentes-Rohwer (2003) argues that constituents are actually

    represented well in the American system of two parties and single-member districts. Others

    conclude, based on statistical analysis of state legislatures before and after redistricting, that

    redistricting increases a legislatures responsiveness and reduces partisan bias (Gelman &

    King, 1994). Fuentes-Rohwer notes that when viewed from the district level, rather than the

    state or national level, a majority of any district will always elect the candidate of their choice.

    More importantly, when courts intervene, they simply take sides in highly politicized debates

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 9

    (Fuentes-Rohwer, 2003, p538). Rather than policing political problems, deciding redistricting

    cases makes the courts more political themselves. If the courts are not the appropriate outlet

    for reducing the harms of redistricting, what is? Scholars frequently suggest changing who does

    the redistricting. For example, a strategy of reinforcing political competition by taking the

    process of redistricting out of the hands of partisan officials offers the prospect of realizing our

    constitutional values (Issacharoff, 2002, p647). I review this possibility in more detail below in

    my discussion of redistricting commissions.

    Race and redistricting. One of the primary ways to challenge a redistricting plan in

    court is over whether it meets the standards of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, discussed in more

    detail below. A major debate in the literature is over the effects of racial redistricting on minority

    representation. For example, Cameron, Epstein, & OHalloran (1996) argue that increasing the

    number of majority-minority districts does not actually improve minority representation in the

    legislative process. They analyze the relationship between black voting age population in a

    district and legislators support for minority issues and then simulate different districts and

    conduct the same analysis. Lublin (1999) rebuts these findings with a point-by-point critique,

    concluding that racial redistricting remains vital to the election of African Americans (p186).

    Major Legal Requirements

    As it stands, both state and federal courts are heavily involved in the redistricting

    process. Professor Levitt at the Loyola Law School Los Angeles until very recently maintained a

    website (Levitt, 2015) listing all the congressional and state legislative redistricting cases for the

    2010, 2000, 1990, and 1980, which gives an idea of the volume of court involvement. For the

    2010 cycle, Levitt identifies 224 total cases filed, 32 of which are still active as of September

    2015. In only 9 states were there no cases filed, and 4 of those are states with a single

    congressional representative, meaning no congressional redistricting occurred. Courts actually

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 10

    drew the congressional maps in 9 states and the legislative maps in 6 states. The states still

    involved in active litigation over redistricting are detailed in Table 1.

    Table 1: Active Redistricting Litigation in 2015

    State U.S. Congressional

    Map in Litigation State Legislative Map

    in Litigation AL X AZ X X FL X X MD X NC X X TX X X VA X WY X

    Source: (Levitt, 2015)

    A surprising number of redistricting cases are heard at the U.S. Supreme Court. One

    reason for this is the peculiar way in which constitutional challenges to redistricting plans are

    handled. Federal law requires redistricting cases to be heard by a three-judge district court

    panel when they involve the constitutionality of apportionment (Manheim, 2013). These cases

    can then be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, ensuring the high court will take on a

    number of redistricting cases.

    Manheim (2013) describes the reasons courts would review a redistricting case as


    The Fourteenth Amendment requires that each plan (1) comply with the equal representation principle; (2) not purposefully discriminate against racial minorities; (3) not subordinate what the Supreme Court has called traditional race-neutral districting principles to racial considerations unless that subordination can survive strict scrutiny; and (4) in theory, at least, avoid excessive political gerrymandering. Federal statutory law in turn requires that a plan (5) not result in a dilution of minority voting strength (a section 2 claim); (6) in certain jurisdictions, not reduce minority voting strength as compared to prior levels (a section 5 claim); and (7) in congressional races, not use multi-member districts. Depending on the jurisdiction, there also may be restrictions set forth in state law (p579-580).

    The major Supreme Court cases on each of these issues have become essential to the

    redistricting process.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 11

    Equal population cases. The Supreme Court for decades refused to intervene in

    redistricting, calling it a political thicket (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2009). This

    changed in 1962, when the court held in Baker v. Carr that redistricting plans could be

    challenged over their constitutionality. This led to a series of decisions in the 1960s known as

    the redistricting cases, culminating with Reynolds v. Sims (1964). The key finding in this case

    was that districts must be drawn, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight

    to that of any other citizen in the State. This is the principle now familiar in redistricting law of

    one person, one vote. This standard has been interpreted strictly in the years to follow, with the

    court ordering states to draw their congressional districts so that they are as close to equal in

    population as possible, unless the state can justify variation on other grounds (such as

    respecting municipal boundaries). For congressional districts, the standard is derived from the

    Constitutions apportionment clause, but the standard for legislative districts is derived from the

    equal protection clause (U.S. Const., amend. XIV, 1). Consequently, the court has allowed

    greater deviation among state legislative districts, generally up to a 10 percent difference

    between the largest and the smallest absent another compelling state interest (National

    Conference of State Legislatures, 2009).

    Voting Rights Act cases. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) has been very

    influential in redistricting jurisprudence. The two principal sections of the VRA are Section 2 and

    Section 5:

    Section 2 was originally a restatement of the 15th Amendment and applies to all jurisdictions. It prohibits any state or political subdivision from imposing a voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice or procedure ... in a manner which results in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of race or color. Section 5, on the other hand, applies only to certain jurisdictions covered under the act. A jurisdiction covered under Section 5 is required to preclear any changes in its electoral laws, practices or procedures with either the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

    The two sections work independently of each other. A change that has been precleared under Section 5 still can be challenged under Section 2 (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2009, p51-52).

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 12

    Thornberg v. Gingles (1986) laid out the most specific standards for assessing violations of

    Section 2. If a minority group wanted to challenge a redistricting plan as diluting their vote, the

    court in Gingles required them to prove:

    1. The group is large enough and located in a sufficiently compact area to allow them to constitute a majority in a district;

    2. The group is cohesive in its politics (racially polarized voting); and

    3. The white majority usually votes in such a way as to prevail over the minority groups preferred candidate.

    The decision also stated that the court must review the totality of the circumstances in deciding

    whether discrimination occurred. The Supreme Court later limited racial redistricting in Shaw v.

    Reno (1993). It found that such claims require strict scrutiny, and it identified circumstances

    under which racial redistricting could be found unconstitutional:

    When majority-minority districts comply with traditional districting principles, and are drawn to redress racially polarized voting, the Court treats them as constitutionally appropriate because [they are] necessary to secure evenhanded treatment. When race-conscious districting goes further, by abandoning the principles typically used to draw other districts, the Court treats race as having been singled out for exceptionally preferential treatment (Pildes, 1997, p2511).

    Both Shaw and Gingles address Section 2 claims. Shelby County v. Holder (2013), by

    contrast, indirectly addresses Section 5 preclearance. What the Supreme Court actually did in

    Shelby County was to declare Section 4 of the VRA unconstitutional. While Section 5 requires

    preclearance for certain jurisdictions, Section 4 spells out the formula that identified which states

    and local governments were subject to Section 5 preclearance. In practice, this means that

    there are no longer any jurisdictions subject to preclearance, unless Congress enacts a new

    formula (Howe, 2013) or jurisdictions are bailed in based on discriminatory actions, under

    Section 3. How this will impact the next round of redistricting remains to be seen.

    Partisan gerrymandering cases. Federal courts have been reluctant to review claims

    of partisan gerrymandering, but they have at times waded into this arena. In Davis v. Bandemer

    (1986), the court found that partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable, and it suggested that

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 13

    the minority party would need to prove discrimination both in intent and effect. It did not,

    however, establish an effective way to evaluate such claims. In Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004), a

    fractured court found that there are no judicially discernible and manageable standards for

    adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims. In addition to the plurality opinion, the justices

    issued a concurring opinion and three separate dissents. This suggests that the Bandemer

    standard had proved unworkable (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2009, p122), but

    the fragmented opinions left open the possibility of further attempts to adjudicate partisan


    In sum, these Supreme Court rulings require states to draw districts with equal

    populations that allow minority groups to elect representatives of their choice (within reason).

    They may also prohibit purely partisan mapmaking, but this is less clear. Further, VRA

    preclearance will likely not exist in the 2020 redistricting cycle. The court will also hear two

    redistricting cases in 2016, and I briefly preview these cases below.

    Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2016) concerns Arizonas state

    legislative districts. This case came through the process described above heard by a three-

    judge panel and appealed directly to the Supreme Court. The court agreed to review whether

    deviations in district size are justified on the basis of partisan advantage, and also whether the

    deviations are justified by an attempt to obtain VRA preclearance, especially in light of the

    Shelby County decision (Denniston, 2015). Denniston speculates that this decision is likely to

    be narrowly tailored to the facts at hand, rather than creating any broad precedent.

    Evenwel v. Abbott (2016), meanwhile, has the potential to significantly change the

    redistricting process. Since setting the equal population standard, the Supreme Court has

    declined to define population, leaving that up to the states. Most states use total population,

    namely, the census headcount. In Evenwel, though, the Texas legislative redistricting plan was

    challenged on the grounds that the total population standard results in districts with an uneven

    distribution of actual voters. This is because total population necessarily includes people who

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 14

    cannot or do not vote: children, convicted felons, non-citizens, and eligible but unregistered

    voters. The challengers want Texas redistricters to count only voters. There are examples

    where alternative population bases have been upheld, but no state has ever been required to

    use a standard other than total population (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2009,

    p10). If the Supreme Court sides with the challengers, this case would force a big change in

    how states conduct their redistricting (Denniston, 2015).

    Redistricting Mechanisms

    Though federal law governs much of redistricting, it is up to each state to decide how its

    district lines are drawn. In the 43 states with more than one U.S. congressional district, there

    are two separate processes one for congressional districts, and one for state legislative

    districts. In most states, the legislature is responsible for both.

    Levitt (2015) classifies redistricting institutions in five ways:

    1. the legislature alone draws the lines;

    2. the legislature draws the lines with the help of an advisory commission;

    3. the legislature draws the lines, but a backup commission is available if the legislature fails to pass a plan;

    4. a politician commission draws the lines, meaning elected officials may serve as commission members; or

    5. an independent commission that excludes elected officials draws the lines.

    Commissions vary significantly in their composition from state to state. For example, Levitt

    classifies Oregon as having a backup commission, but in fact the backup is the Secretary of

    State alone. Iowa is classified as having an advisory commission, but the staff role in Iowa is

    unique. The advisory body is actually the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which uses

    statutory criteria to draft redistricting plans, and which can seek guidance from an independent

    commission. The Iowa legislature then has three chances to accept or reject proposed plans

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 15

    without modification. After three rejections, the legislature can provide its own plan, but this has

    not occurred since this system began in 1980 (Levitt, 2015).

    Table 2 provides more detail about the mechanisms used for state legislative

    redistricting, where there is greater variation in the processes. Figure 1 and Figure 2 are Levitts

    maps, applying the above categories to congressional and state legislative redistricting,


    Table 2: Mechanisms for State Legislative Redistricting


    Legislature with

    Gubernatorial Approval

    (Veto Power)

    Legislature as Sole


    Legislative Process with

    Backup Commission

    Legislative Process with

    Advisory Commission

    Partisan or Bipartisan

    Commission Independent Commission


  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 16

    Table 2: Mechanisms for State Legislative Redistricting


    Legislature with

    Gubernatorial Approval

    (Veto Power)

    Legislature as Sole


    Legislative Process with

    Backup Commission

    Legislative Process with

    Advisory Commission

    Partisan or Bipartisan

    Commission Independent Commission


    Total 20 2 11 4 11 2 Source: Mooney, 2011

    Figure 1: Map of Congressional Redistricting Institutions

    Source: (Levitt, 2015)

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 17

    Figure 2: Map of State Legislative Redistricting Institutions

    Source: (Levitt, 2015)

    The use of commissions is much discussed in redistricting literature, mostly for their

    potential to reduce partisanship in the process. The commissions in Arizona and California are

    seen as the most independent, and as such have generated the most interest. [C]ollectively

    they embody elements of almost every redistricting reform idea ever proposed (Cain, 2012,


    Arizonas commission was adopted in 2000 and used for the 2000 and 2010 redistricting

    cycles (Levitt, 2015). Legislative leaders selected members of the Arizona Independent

    Redistricting Commission from a pool of 25 individuals chosen by a judicial selection

    commission. The five final commission members included two from each major political party

    and one independent. The commission was also given criteria for drawing its maps and was

    required not to base its plans on prior maps or consider incumbents.

    Californias commission was adopted in 2008 (for state legislative maps) and 2010 (for

    congressional maps) and used for the first time in the 2010 cycle (Levitt, 2015). The Citizens

    Redistricting Commission is notable for its unique selection process (Cain, 2012). Prospective

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 18

    commissioners had to meet a number of requirements aimed at keeping politics out of the pool.

    Applicants (36,000 expressed initial interest in 2010) were screened by the California Bureau of

    Audits, and those who qualified were invited to complete a supplemental application. This

    group was then whittled down, complete with strikes from legislative leadership, to 36 each of

    Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Three Democrats, three Republicans, and two

    independents were chosen by lottery. The 8 then chose the remaining 6. Cain (2012) reports

    that the commission was diverse with respect to race, gender, and ethnicity, but not with

    respect to education and class (p1825). In addition to this novel selection process, Californias

    commission was also given specific criteria to be followed and a specific order in which they

    were to be applied, was subject to extensive public input processes, and was required to have

    the support of members from each political party and independents to adopt a plan.

    Cain offers an early analysis of the California and Arizona commissions, finding that they

    have not eliminated political controversy and partisan suspicions (Cain, 2012, p1812) and

    therefore, their plans were just as likely to be challenged in court. He notes that in California,

    the commissions maps were more compact and more competitive than the plans they replaced,

    but these improvements were modest, and the plans drew criticism from many directions. Cain

    also points out that by prescribing the numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and independents,

    the system inherently skews away from proportional representation, as 44 percent of California

    voters were registered as Democrats and 31 percent Republicans at the time. An in-depth

    ProPublica report on the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (Pierce & Larson, 2011)

    concluded that the national Democratic Party and Californias Democratic congressional

    delegation stealthily and successfully manipulated the process in their favor.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 19

    Redistricting Staff

    The two articles about the California commission above also cover the role of

    commission staff, but in general, this is an area to which the literature pays scant attention. The

    ProPublica report notes that the commission was overwhelmed by the task at hand (Pierce &

    Larson, 2011, np), with its expert staff overworked and underpaid. Cain also raises concerns

    about the process of staffing independent commissions. Because staff require certain expertise

    that the commissioners lack geographic information systems (GIS), statistics, voting rights law

    they could, in theory, steer commission decisions in a given direction by skewing the advice

    and options they give the commissioners (Cain, 2012, p1833). Further, most redistricting

    consultants have worked for one or the other party (Cain, 2012, p1835), which raises

    suspicions. Cain notes that Arizonas commission in 2011 was dogged by controversy over its

    staffing decisions.

    Colorados state legislative redistricting commission, inaptly named the Colorado

    Reapportionment Commission, is made up of commissioners appointed by legislative

    leadership, the Governor, and the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. In reflecting on

    his commission service, one law professor expresses skepticism of the commissions staff

    (Nichol, Jr., 2001). He suggests that the commissions staff, currently borrowed from the states

    legislative service agencies, should instead be independent from the legislature, writing:

    Staff members who report the rest of the year to the Speaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate would be idiots to treat all commission members as equals. And our staff members clearly were not idiots. In a process in which commission members are immensely and correctly skeptical of their colleagues' motives, and in which no commission member fully understands the studies, gadgetry, jargon and software that the redistricting process requires, it is a mistake to have a staff beholden to the legislature (p1031).

    Another professor who served on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission wrote an ebook

    on his experience, and his comments on staff are limited to two paragraphs, one of which

    misspells the name of commissions staff director. The staff, he writes, became skilled at

    getting the right map up on the screen at the right time (Loevy, 2011, p46). In his conclusions,

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 20

    Loevy recommends the commission staff remain under the administrative direction of the Office

    of Legislative Legal Services (their current configuration), though he suggests highly trained

    computer experts be hired instead of existing legislative staff (p106). He found that even under

    the commission structure, the political parties employed computer experts to draw maps that

    were then submitted by commissioners as their own.

    It appears that the role of redistricting staff, and the outside perception of that role, is not

    well understood. Are staff neutral players, mostly responsible for projecting maps on screens?

    Or do they wield influence on the process as behind-the-scenes experts? The literature does

    not answer this question. A limited amount of research is available on the role of legislative staff

    generally, however, and this may or may not be comparable.

    Recent research on state legislatures has focused on their professionalization

    (Grossback & Peterson, 2004), and the role of legislative staff is an area of study within this.

    Some researchers have linked the size and skill level of legislative staff to the effectiveness of

    legislative leadership (Jewell & Whicker, 1994). Others find that legislators identify staff as a

    key source of policy information (Gray, 1999; Hammond, 1996). However, DeGregorio (cited in

    Hammond, 1996, p545) found that U.S. Congressional staff work within the parameters set by

    committee norms, issue jurisdiction, and leaders expectations and styles. This research

    suggests that staff role is limited in actually influencing policy outcomes. Hammond (1996)

    further describes research concluding that state legislative staff influence depends on the

    technical nature of the issue, how much attention it receives, and whether it is new and

    unrelated to ongoing legislative concerns (p562). Following this framework, redistricting is

    certainly technical and new to most of the legislators involved, but it also receives plenty of

    attention and is an issue of concern to those legislators. Applying these findings to redistricting

    staff appears to be inconclusive.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 21

    Redistricting Technology and Data

    Conventional wisdom about redistricting suggests that improved computing has made

    gerrymandering easier and more effective. For example, incumbent entrenchment has gotten

    worse as the computer technology for more exquisite gerrymandering has improved

    (Issacharoff, 2002, p624), and data collection and computer technology [] improvements

    have enhanced the capacity to gerrymander effectively (Pildes, 1997, p2553). A

    comprehensive analysis of district compactness, however, found that districts have consistently

    become more gerrymandered (less compact) over time, and the trend increased significantly

    beginning in the 1970s (Ansolabehere & Palmer, 2015). This research suggests that the one-

    person, one-vote standard and the Voting Rights Act had more to do with reduced compactness

    than technology.

    Additionally, an in-depth analysis of the role of technology in the 2000 redistricting cycle

    concluded that, if redistricting has become more sophisticated in this round over the last,

    computing technology seems unlikely to have been the primary cause (Altman, MacDonald, &

    McDonald, 2005, p343). The researchers surveyed states about the computer programs, data,

    and consultants they used in the 2000 cycle. They note that from 1990 to 2000, computers

    became cheaper and faster, but the software capabilities did not differ significantly. Like

    Ansolabehere and Palmer, they found that trends away from compact districts began in the

    1960s and 1970s, when computer technology was extremely limited. This particular study is

    also useful in that its surveys produced results for the 2000 and 1990 cycles that should be

    comparable to my information about the 2010 cycle. In another analysis, Altman and McDonald

    note that technological advances have had a notable impact on transparency and public

    participation in the redistricting process (Altman & McDonald, 2014). This is also an aspect of

    redistricting technology addressed in my survey.

    Issacharoff (2002) and Pildes (1997) further assert that improved data has led to more

    sophisticated gerrymandering. It is also true, though, that census data is limited. The decennial

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 22

    census is based on an actual headcount, but the Census also conducts an ongoing American

    Community Survey (ACS), which began in 1996 and replaced the long form questionnaire

    after the 2000 census (US Census Bureau, 2013). The actual headcount data must, by law, be

    used in reapportionment. In practice, it is also used in redistricting. The ACS measures many

    more variables than the headcount, but it relies on statistical sampling. Race and ethnicity

    questions appear on the full census questionnaire, but other questions of interest to

    redistricters, such as citizenship, are only found on the ACS. This means that the citizenship

    data is not on par with population data (Persily, 2011, p774); in particular, it cannot accurately

    estimate citizenship at the census block level, meaning it cannot be relied upon for redistricting.

    This is something the Supreme Court will have to consider in the Evenwel v. Abbott case.

    Additionally, Persily points out that, voting rights law in some circuits [] demands more

    information than the census can give (p779). More broadly, there are distinct groups whose

    allocation into districts raises political questions no matter how they are counted. This includes

    U.S. citizens residing abroad, college students, military members, and prisoners.

    Research Questions

    While the literature paints a good picture of how redistricting is conducted, many

    questions remain about specific procedures, especially from the perspective of NCSLs

    members legislators and legislative staff. This project addresses some of these questions.

    My broad research questions are:

    How are the congressional and legislative redistricting processes administered in each state?

    What resources can NCSL provide to help legislators and legislative staff with this process?

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 23


    To better understand the redistricting process, I surveyed staff members who have

    worked for their legislatures on redistricting. The survey was sent to NCSLs list of redistricting

    contacts, drawn from the membership of its Standing Committee on Redistricting and Elections,

    on September 22, 2015. The survey reached all 50 states but in some cases went to elections

    staff rather than legislative staff.

    Survey questions were requested by Wendy Underhill at NCSL, and then evaluated to

    determine whether the desired information could be obtained elsewhere. For example, a series

    of proposed questions about whether state redistricting plans were challenged in court was left

    off the survey because Levitts website provides thorough information about this issue. Many of

    the survey questions, such as a question about records retention, represent information

    requested from NCSL by state legislative staff.

    I prepared the survey and had it reviewed by Professor Ely and Wendy Underhill. Two

    people with experience staffing redistricting also graciously agreed to review early drafts of the

    survey. Michelle Davis, an employee of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services and

    staff co-chair of NCSLs Standing Committee on Redistricting and Elections, and Kate Watkins,

    an employee of Colorado Legislative Council Staff and staff on the 2011 Colorado

    Reapportionment Commission, provided valuable feedback. Wendy Underhill did a test run of

    the survey to make sure the form worked.

    The survey was prepared in Google Forms, which allows for a variety of question types

    and free distribution. We also had a Word version available, but only two states used this to

    actually complete the survey. The areas covered in the survey are:

    Overview questions, providing information about the person completing the survey;

    Redistricting process questions, covering legal requirements, records retention, and pending legislation and initiatives;

    Redistricting staff questions, covering the quantity and type of staff assistance used in the 2010 redistricting cycle;

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 24

    Redistricting technology questions, covering geographic information system (GIS)

    vendors and public map submission; and

    Redistricting resource questions, reviewing NCSLs available resources and offering the opportunity to recommend others.

    A copy of the survey as it appeared to recipients is provided as Appendix A. We received 22

    responses within a week of sending the survey, including 12 in the first 24 hours. In the end we

    collected at least partial responses from 47 states.

    Results The people responding to the survey were primarily nonpartisan legislative staff (33),

    which is not surprising since these make up the bulk of standing committee participants. Seven

    respondents were partisan legislative staff, three work for a state elections office, and four were

    hired by commissions specifically for redistricting. 37 respondents, or 78.7 percent, staffed the

    2010 redistricting cycle. Seven work exclusively on redistricting issues at this time, but only

    three of those are legislative staff (two nonpartisan, one partisan). Survey results are presented

    in four categories: process, staffing, technology, and NCSL resources. The survey form did not

    require responses to any questions, so there are times when some states did not respond to a

    particular question. In these cases, the non-responses are not tabulated in the results.


    Our process questions included whether states have proposals to create a redistricting

    commission, requirements for the type of bill adopting a redistricting plan, procedures for

    correcting technical errors, records retention requirements, and deadlines for completion of the

    redistricting process.

    22 states identified current proposals to adopt some form of redistricting commission. Of

    the 24 states that did not, 16 already have commissions in place. The remaining eight were

    Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 25

    Delaware, Nevada, and North Dakota noted that they have had proposals in prior years.

    Therefore, nearly all responding states either have redistricting commissions or have considered


    The official formats of state redistricting plans are summarized in Table 3. The majority

    of states present their redistricting plans as block assignment files, which are created by GIS

    software. Metes and bounds bills describe physical features of the local geography, along with

    direction and distances. Other types identified by respondents tended to use other geographic

    descriptions all relied on some combination of counties, townships, voting tabulation districts,

    precincts, tracts, or blocks.

    Table 3: Official Formats of State Legislative Redistricting Plans

    Type of Bill Number of

    States Block Assignment File 25 Metes and Bounds 5 Map 3 Combination of Above Types 3 Other Formats 9

    In all but three states (Illinois, Ohio, and Utah), the bill types were the same for legislative and

    congressional plans. Eleven states said that the bill format is specified in law, and these

    statutory citations are provided in Appendix B.

    Thirteen states have an official procedure for correcting technical errors, and statutory

    citations for these procedures are also provided in Appendix B.

    A quarter of respondents did not answer the question about their states redistricting

    records retention policies, suggesting that they did not know the answer, or said they did not

    know. Another eight states said they had no specific policy. 15 respondents said that

    redistricting records fall under their states general records retention policies, either for state

    records generally or for legislation specifically. Twelve states identified specific policies for

    redistricting records, but they generally described these vaguely. No state identified a specific

    statutory requirement.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 26

    Figures 3 and 4 graphically represent the deadlines for states to complete their

    congressional and legislative redistricting, respectively. Many of these deadlines are tied to

    either legislative session lengths or filing deadlines for 2022 primary elections, but as the figures

    show, there is a good deal of variation. Almost a year and half separates the first and last

    congressional deadlines, and the gap is wider for legislative redistricting because the Montana

    legislature only meets in odd-numbered years, pushing the states deadline back to 2023.

    Figure 3: State Deadlines for Completing U.S. Congressional Redistricting


    ME MT

    CA CT ID

    NM PA




    MA NY











    April- May



    September 2021


    Figure 4: State Deadlines for Completing State Legislative Redistricting

    IL IN NE

    DE ME OR


    NM OH TX






















    January 2021




    Staffing questions on the survey addressed the number and type of support staff for the

    redistricting process, the average time they spent on redistricting, and whether and how

    additional staff were hired. We also asked when staff preparations for the 2020 redistricting

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 27

    cycle will begin, how much of the states redistricting staff are expected to be new to the process

    in 2020, and a confidence rating for each states ability to manage the redistricting process.

    Staff levels. Survey respondents were asked to estimate the number of full-time

    equivalents (FTE) working on redistricting in the 2010 cycle and to identify the type of staff they

    included in their count. Where a range was provided, I used the middle of the range for

    analysis. Additionally, many staff had other responsibilities, and many respondents noted that

    their numbers were inexact, so these numbers are not presented as definitive. The mean FTEs

    across respondents was 9.9, with Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and California

    reporting over 30. Excluding those four states, Figure 5 compares staffing levels with each

    states U.S. congressional districts. The correlation coefficient between these two variables (as

    calculated in Excel) is 0.63, indicating a slight positive correlation.

    Figure 5: Redistricting Staff Relative to Number of U.S. Congressional Districts

    Additional source: Burnett, 2011

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 28

    NCSL also collected staffing data for the 1990 redistricting cycle, and Table 4 compares

    our 2010 data to the 1990 data where available.

    Table 4: Change in Redistricting Staff Levels 1990-2010

    State 1990 2010 Percent change Alabama 5 5 0% Alaska - 4 - Arizona 10 9 -10% Arkansas - 8.5 - California 20 30 50% Colorado 7 13 86% Connecticut 6 - - Delaware 10 9 -10% Florida 25 - - Georgia 8 8 0% Hawaii 25 14 -44% Idaho 1 8 700% Illinois - 10 - Indiana 5 6 20% Iowa 7 3.5 -50% Kansas 6 11 83% Kentucky 11 17.5 59% Louisiana 14 7 -50% Maine - 4 - Maryland 1 6 500% Massachusetts 4 3 -25% Michigan - - - Minnesota 10 13 30% Mississippi 9 2 -78% Missouri 5 6 20% Montana 2 4 100% Nebraska 4 3 -25% Nevada 2 8 300% New Hampshire 9 7 -22% New Jersey 7 30 329% New Mexico 10 14 40% New York 14 30 114% North Carolina 5 12 140% North Dakota 2 2 0% Ohio - - - Oklahoma 8 7 -13% Oregon 5 3 -40% Pennsylvania 12 40 233%

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 29

    Table 4: Change in Redistricting Staff Levels 1990-2010

    State 1990 2010 Percent change Rhode Island 4 - - South Carolina - - - South Dakota 8 4 -50% Tennessee - 9 - Texas 43 13 -70% Utah 4 5 25% Vermont 3 6 100% Virginia 10 7 -30% Washington 10 15 50% West Virginia 3 4 33% Wisconsin 11 12 9% Wyoming 4 3 -25% Mean 8.8 10.3 15% Additional source: Prior NCSL research (found in NCSL files; additional information unavailable)

    Consistent with what we know about our survey respondents, 35 states said their

    staffing totals included nonpartisan legislative staff. 17 states included partisan legislative staff,

    10 used contract consultants, and 8 included elections or other executive branch staff. Alaska,

    Arizona, California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Washington mentioned staff hired specifically for

    a redistricting commission. By contrast, Colorados commission is staffed exclusively by

    existing nonpartisan legislative staff. Most states reported spending between six months and

    two years on redistricting. Only New York, which maintains a permanent redistricting office, and

    Texas, where litigation is ongoing, reported more than four years. This data is presented

    graphically in Figure 6.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 30

    Figure 6: Average Time Staff Spent Working on Redistricting

    Additional hiring. 28 states said they hired additional staff specifically for redistricting.

    In 11 of those states, hiring decisions were made by a legislative staff agency. Political parties,

    leadership, or caucuses made the hiring decisions in nine states. In six states, commissioners

    or their staff made hiring decisions, and in Wyoming, additional hiring was done by the

    executive branch. The expertise sought when hiring additional redistricting staff is presented in

    Table 5.

    Table 5: Redistricting Expertise For Which States Hired Additional Staff

    Type States Seeking Number of


    GIS/Mapping AK, AZ CA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, MS, NE, NV, NM, OH, OK, OR, WY, WA


    Legal LA, MS, MO, NH, NM, PA 6 Political/Legislative AK, ME, NJ, OK, TX, WA 6 Administrative/Organizational/ Clerical/Communications HI, IL, KS, PA 4

    Data Analysis CA, MA 2

    When asked to speculate as to how many of the people staffing redistricting in 2020

    would be doing so for the first time, states were fairly evenly split. Eight thought less than a

    quarter of their staff would be new, eleven predicted 26 to 50 percent, thirteen predicted 51 to

    75 percent, and twelve thought 76 to 100 percent would be new. Despite this expected

    turnover, states were overall confident that they have the resources and expertise necessary to

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 31

    manage the 2020 redistricting cycle. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being very confident, the mean

    response was 4.27. 36 states picked 4 or 5, and only Tennessee selected a score below the


    Preparations. Figure 7 shows when states began or plan to begin preparing for the

    2020 redistricting cycle. Where a range was given, this chart shows the earliest point in the

    range. Again, New York has a permanent redistricting office, and so it is excluded from this

    chart. Though more than half the states do not plan to begin preparing until 2018 or later, 13

    states have either already begun to prepare or will do so in the next year, suggesting that some

    may be seeking new NCSL resources already.

    Figure 7: When Preparations for the 2020 Redistricting Cycle Begin




    IN TN




    AZ VT










    States were surveyed on the mapping technology they used for redistricting, whether

    they were considering a new vendor for 2020, and if so, what improvements they would be

    looking for. We also asked about how states gather public input during the redistricting process.

    Redistricting software. We identified three primary software programs used to draw

    redistricting maps in 2010 AutoBound (Citygate), Districting for ArcGIS (Esri), and Maptitude

    for Redistricting (Caliper) and asked states which vendor they used. 24 states (more than half

    of respondents) used Maptitude, 15 used AutoBound, and 3 used Districting for ArcGIS.

    Louisiana reported using a customized ArcGIS application as well as Maptitude, New

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 32

    Hampshire and Texas used in-house programs, and three states were unable to identify the

    mapping vendor they used. (These three are not included in the total when calculating

    percentages.) Table 6 compares our data with surveys conducted in 1990 and 2000 (Altman et

    al., 2005). Note that Altmans surveys only covered congressional redistricting, so states with a

    single congressional district at the time were excluded from his reports.

    Table 6: Redistricting/GIS Software Used in 1990, 2000, and 2010

    1990 2000 2010

    Software/Vendor Number of States

    Percentage of Survey

    Respondents Number of States

    Percentage of Survey

    Respondents Number of States

    Percentage of Survey

    Respondents AutoBound - - 19 45.2% 15 33.3% Districting for ArcGIS/other Esri 8 21.1% - - 3 6.7%

    Geodist 9 23.7% - - - - Mapinfo 1 2.6% - - - - Maptitude/Maptitude for Redistricting - - 15 35.7% 24 53.3%

    Plan 90/Plan 2000 9 23.7% 2 4.7% REAPS 2 5.3% - - - - Custom 7 18.4% 6 14.3% 3 6.7% None 2 5.3% - - - - Additional source: Altman et al., 2005, p337 Particularly notable in this comparison is the decline in the number of states using custom

    applications, which Altman attributes to the decreasing cost of off-the-shelf GIS software. This

    chart also shows the decline in the number of vendors participating in this market, from five in

    1990 to three in 2000 to three (but practically two) in 2010.

    We also asked whether states were considering switching to a different mapping vendor

    for the 2020 redistricting cycle, and if so, what improvements they were looking for. Several

    respondents were unsure of their plans at this time, but 19 said they were considering switching,

    and 23 said they were not. The yes responses represented 9 of 15 AutoBound users and 10

    of 24 Maptitude users, a fairly even split. The most requested improvement (five responses)

    was for better web-based or online mapping options. Four states reported that they would like

    improved stability, and three states each said they would seek greater ease of use and more

    customization options. Other improvements states would like were:

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 33

    More options for designing and publishing maps;

    More reporting options;

    Lower cost;

    Public submission capabilities;

    Open source technology

    Automation; and

    Better customer service.

    Public input. The survey asked whether states accepted public map submissions. This

    is another question Altman et al (2005) asked regarding the 1990 and 2000 redistricting cycle.

    39 respondents (86.7 percent) accepted public submissions in 2010. This compares to 81

    percent of states in 2000 and 61.5 percent of states in 1990 (Altman et al, 2005, p339). Most of

    our respondents did not know how many submissions they received from the public. Three

    states said they received none. 15 states received between 1 and 10 submissions, and 6 states

    received between 10 and 90. Seven states reported receiving more than 90 public

    submissions. Four of those California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas were among the

    five most populous states to respond to the survey. The other three are Arizona, Idaho, and

    Utah. Arizonas new redistricting commission generated a good deal of public attention, which

    may have led to the high number of submissions, and both Idaho and Utah offered online tools

    through which members of the public could easily submit maps. Idaho noted that they used

    Mapitude Online to provide this service, and Utah developed its site with Esri (Hesterman,

    2011). Three states (Delaware, Hawaii, and Kansas) said staff reviewed the public maps for

    technical and legal compliance before distributing them to legislators or commissioners. Most

    states that received maps from members of the public submitted them directly to legislators or

    commissioners for their consideration. A few also posted them publicly. Though we did not ask

    whether the public submissions influenced decisions, as nonpartisan staff are often unable to

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 34

    answer this kind of question, when asked what was done with the publicly generated maps, only

    Montana mentioned using them to develop commission proposals.

    Other methods states used to solicit public input on the redistricting process are detailed

    in Table 7. Most states conduct public hearings, a process familiar to legislative bodies, and 12

    states said public hearings were the only method they used to gather public input.

    Table 7: Public Input to the Redistricting Process

    Method of Input

    Number of States Offering

    This Option Percent of

    Respondents Public Hearings 42 93.3%

    Dedicated Email Box or Phone Line 23 51.1%

    Comment Form on a Website 15 33.3%

    Additionally, seven states reported that they provided public work stations with mapping

    software where members of the public could create redistricting maps. We did not ask about

    this specifically, so it is possible more states provided this option. Altman et al (2005) reported

    that 15 states in 1990 and 18 states in 2000 provided public terminals, web sites, or software for

    public map creation.


    NCSL was interested in evaluating its existing redistricting resources and seeking

    suggestions for future projects. Respondents were asked to rate six existing NCSL redistricting


    1. Redistricting Law 2010, also known as the Red Book, is NCSLs comprehensive treatise on redistricting law (p vii). It is updated every ten years by members of NCSLs Redistricting and Elections Standing Committee, as well as NCSL and U.S. Census Bureau staff, and it is available online and in hard copy.

    2. The 2010 Redistricting Cases web page ( compiled cases from the 2010 redistricting cycle. It was last updated at the beginning of 2012. NCSL maintained similar pages for the 2000 and 1990 cycles.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 35

    3. NCSLs main redistricting web page ( includes information on several specific topics and is updated as new NCSL research is completed.

    4. Redistricting sessions are offered annually at the Legislative Summit, NCSLs major annual membership convention.

    5. Redistricting sessions are also offered at the Capitol Forum, NCSLs annual policy

    and lobbying meeting. 6. Stand-alone redistricting meetings have been offered in the past specifically for

    legislative staff working on redistricting.

    The rating options were: very useful, somewhat useful, not very useful, or not useful at all.

    Respondents could also indicate that they were unfamiliar with the resource. I coded the ratings

    on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being not useful at all and 4 being very useful, and then found the

    mean. The results, along with a tally of those unfamiliar with each resource, are summarized in

    Figure 8. This shows that respondents overall find all the NCSL resources useful, and nearly all

    of them are familiar with the resources. The only resource with which more than a quarter of

    respondents were unfamiliar is the Capitol Forum, which is the smaller of NCSLs two annual


    Figure 8: Usefulness of and Familiarity with NCSL Resources

    3.76 3.71

    3.41 3.39 3.383.18

















    Red Book StandaloneMeetings

    Summit CapitolForum

    Cases Page Website


    ber U







    Average Rating Number Unfamiliar

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 36

    The resource respondents singled out most frequently in open-ended comments as

    being especially useful was the standalone redistricting meetings, particularly sessions involving

    hands-on practice drawing maps and participation from the U.S. Census Bureau. Several

    respondents mentioned the Red Book as well. The complete responses to this question are

    compiled in Appendix C.

    We also asked states what other resources they used to stay informed about

    redistricting. Half the respondents said they used their software vendors, consistent with our

    other responses indicating that states want additional GIS expertise and training. These

    responses are summarized in Table 8.

    Table 8: Redistricting Resources

    Resource Number of States

    Using This Resource Software Vendors 21 Academic or Think Tank Websites 16 Professional Consultants 14 Other: Elected Officials and Former Elected Officials 3

    Other: Political Parties 3 Other: Lawyers and Professors 2

    Finally, we asked for suggestions of additional resources NCSL could provide for the

    2020 cycle. In general, these suggestions were that existing resources be updated and

    continued, including email updates and standalone redistricting meetings. Two respondents

    specifically requested additional GIS training opportunities. Other suggestions included a

    summary of legal changes over the last decade, timetable of Census product availability, and

    additional information about redistricting commissions. Complete responses to this question are

    compiled in Appendix C.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 37

    Discussion and Conclusion Our findings address a number of areas of the redistricting process that should be useful

    as NCSL fields questions from its members. Many results can now be provided to state

    legislative staff who have asked for specific information. State legislators are often interested in

    comparing what their state does with what other states do. Personally, as a legislative staff

    person often asked to provide this information to legislators, I love when NCSL has collected

    data on a question I am researching, and my hope is that this survey will help NCSL have some

    answers at the ready.

    The survey shows that most states that do not already use a redistricting commission

    have seen proposals to move to one. This indicates that there is significant interest in

    redistricting commissions, and their creation will likely be a topic for NCSL to continue to

    research. It also shows that not a lot is known about how states apply their open records laws

    to redistricting records, which may be worthy of further study.

    Survey findings provide justification for NCSL support in the redistricting process.

    Almost none of our respondents work exclusively on redistricting issues. And while they are

    overall confident in their states ability to manage the redistricting process, 82 percent think at

    least a quarter of their redistricting staff in 2020 will be new to redistricting, and 27 percent think

    almost all their staff will be. With an average of 10 people staffing redistricting in each state,

    that is a large number of new staff. NCSLs unique nonpartisan role puts it in a place to reach

    these staff and provide resources they can use. Since 30 percent of respondents have already

    begun preparing for the next redistricting cycle or will begin within the next year, it is not too

    early to begin thinking about what those resources will look like.

    With that in mind, our survey found that states find NCSLs existing resources to be

    useful overall. The resources respondents found most useful are the Red Book and standalone

    redistricting meetings, so this gives NCSL some areas on which to focus. While we asked

    about resources that stood out to our respondents and sought suggestions for other resources,

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 38

    these questions did not generate a lot of new information. However, looking at responses to

    other questions can help guide the preparation of future resources.

    More than half the survey respondents reported using their mapping software vendor as

    a resource, and of the states that hired additional staff expressly for redistricting, 61 percent

    said they were hiring for GIS expertise. This suggests an interest in continued education on GIS

    technology. We can also tell from the comparison to technology used in 1990 and 2000 that a

    lot can change over a decade. Since most states now use one of two vendors, NCSL may be

    able to facilitate early interaction with the vendors to meet states needs. 45 percent of

    respondents are considering a new technology vendor for 2020, and if options remain limited,

    the competition between the two vendors may be fierce. Additionally, several states expressed

    an interest in pursuing additional online mapping offerings. Since Utah and Idaho reported

    using this kind of tool in 2010, it would make sense to tap these staff to present on their work.

    It is important to note the limitations of this survey. Responders were asked to recall

    information, often from three or four years ago. Relying on their memory rather than recorded

    information means that we cannot expect complete accuracy. Additionally, we were unable to

    secure complete responses from all 50 states. The states not represented on the survey are:

    Florida, Michigan, and South Carolina. By not capturing responses from Florida and Michigan,

    we miss the third and tenth most populous states in the U.S. A few states provided only

    minimal responses, and a few said their responses included, for example, only one chamber of

    the legislature. Another limitation is the way different states responded to the survey. This is

    particularly notable in the question about staff numbers. Some states gave exact numbers and

    some provided ranges. Some included all agencies and staff types, some only included their

    own. Better wording of the question, such as, How many people were paid by the legislature to

    work on redistricting? may have yielded more definitive answers.

    In conclusion, this survey provides valuable information about how the redistricting

    process is conducted at the state level, including who staffs, the role of technology, and the

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 39

    timeline for the 2020 redistricting cycle. It also offers insight to NCSL as to the redistricting

    resources it can provide. The results should show a definite need for NCSL in the process, and

    they suggest areas of interest to NCSLs member states. By answering a number of discrete

    questions, the survey helps prepare NCSL to answer member questions as they arise. My

    compilation and analysis of the responses answer my research questions by explaining how the

    process is administered and noting resources NCSL can provide.

  • Redistricting Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff 40

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    (all attached) Appendix A: Survey Design Appendix B: Statutory References Appendix C: Resource Recommendations Appendix D: Contact Information for Survey Respondents and Other Redistricting Contacts

    FiguresTablesExecutive SummaryIntroductionLiterature ReviewMajor Legal RequirementsRedistricting MechanismsRedistricting StaffRedistricting Technology and Data

    Research QuestionsMethodologyResultsProcessStaffTechnologyResources

    Discussion and ConclusionReferencesAppendices