Redistricting for Local Governments: What You Need to Know

Author: John McKenzie Published: March 26, 2021

When people think about redistricting, the first thing that comes to mind is usually congressional districts. However, many local government agencies are also required to reapportion their voting districts every ten years.

Due to challenges with the latest census, this year’s data release has been delayed until September. Unfortunately, this delay could mean that local governments will be working within a compressed timeline to adopt their new district boundaries.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the timeline, there are a few things local governments can do now to prevent a last-minute redistricting scramble.

Research your requirements.

  • Check your state legislature’s website or consult with your attorney to learn about state and local redistricting requirements. Most states provide a specific time frame for when redistricting needs to happen. Keep an eye out for changes as some states may adjust timelines to account for census delays.
  • Figure out what the state requirements are for public involvement. In most cases, your redistricting plan will need to be presented at a public meeting and be open for public comment, but some states require more. For example, local governments in California are required to hold at least four public hearings and allow the public to submit their draft maps.
  • Don’t forget to check your local rules for additional requirements.

Figure out who needs to be involved.

  • Analysts: Demographic and GIS analyses are essential to redistricting. To create districts that comply with all the rules, you will need the right software, skills, and experience. If you have an internal GIS team, they may be able to help, but are they familiar with the redistricting process and do they have time in their schedule? If your GIS team can’t do it, consider hiring an outside consultant or signing an interlocal agreement with another public agency that has the resources.
  • Attorneys: It’s important to have your counsel review and sign off on your redistricting plans to ensure your district boundaries won’t be subject to litigation. Your attorney can also help you determine your specific redistricting requirements, help you understand voting rights acts requirements, and offer valuable advice throughout the process.
  • Staff: Depending on the situation, you might need input from many different departments including city managers, clerks, planning, parks, and public works and utilities. Make sure all your departments know they could be asked to help out.
  • Stakeholders: Other stakeholders in your community will want to be involved in the process too. It’s particularly important to make sure schools and special districts in your area are kept in the loop. Realtors, developers, and community non-profit organizations will all want to stay informed as you draw your new boundaries.

Ready to learn more? Take a deeper dive into what local governments need to do to redistrict in these recorded webinars by FLO and our association partners.

Intro to Redistricting for Washington Counties

Presented by Washington State Association of Counties

Check out these highlighted sections of the webinar!

  • 28:30—Take a look behind the scenes at how we draw districts using the latest tools and technology
  • 37:47—A look at a redistricting engagement portal

The 2020 Census & Local Government Redistricting: What You Need to Know

Presented by Engaging Local Government Leaders

Check out these highlighted sections of the webinar!

  • 9:30—Defining and identifying communities of mutual interest
  • 11:00—Complying with the Federal Voting Rights Act
  • 12:25—Preventing vote dilution
  • 32:55—Demo of the District Scenario Modeler