The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill

The final session of NCSL's first redistricting seminar in Providence, R.I., was a chance for legislators and others to indeed ask meeting faculty anything. These questions give a flavor of what was on their minds.

Kim Brace of Election Data ServicesAnd here's the full agenda, with resources linked.

Who receives redistricting data from the census and how do we find them??

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the official recipients of the data are spelled out in Public Law 94-171: "reported to the Governor of the State involved and the officers or public bodies having responsibility for legislative apportionment or districting of such State ... ."  Over the years this has been interpreted to mean the governor, legislative leadership (majority and minority in both chambers), and any commissions that have already been established at the time of data delivery.

One speaker stated that “drawing maps is not the start of redistricting, it is the end.” This being the case, what are the five or so major steps in the redistricting process that precede the drawing of maps?

Preparing data well in advance is one thing. Much of the data will come from the 2020 census but some states use data from ancillary sources. Also, each state must identify who will do redistricting (who will chair the committee, for instance), and what specific guidelines they’ll follow. Then there’s securing technology, hiring staff, and lots of other preparatory tasks. See NCSL’s Into the Thicket: A Redistricting Starter Kit.

Do any of the vendors of the top products for developing legislative maps provide no-cost map viewers that allow individuals to interactively view, though not create or edit, maps created with their software?

Yes. Here’s NCSL’s webpage listing redistricting vendors.

Will the Census Data Redistricting Program office provide a tool that makes it easy to visually see the changes that have been made to census blocks and voting districts during the Phase I and Phase II efforts?

Yes. Information contained within the geographic files combined with the Census GUPS tool will provide information on what was changed or provided in Phase 1 and 2 (BBSP &VTD) of the Redistricting Data Program. Contact the census staff at

Will the new “differential privacy” plan from the U.S. Census Bureau affect 2020 maps as far as meeting the requirements of the Voting Rights Act?

The census bureau hopes so. Here’s a blog from a couple of weeks ago that will fill you in a bit on what differential privacy means.

Is the redistricting process a chance to get the attention of a state’s congressional delegation?

Yes. Congressional representatives can seem far removed from their states for much of the decade. Knowing that the legislature will be drawing their districts may make them particularly attentive to their state-based colleagues.

The 2018 end-to-end census test had a lower response rate for blacks and some other minorities. What explanations can you offer and how do we work to improve these response rates?

(Editor’s note: the U.S. Census Bureau conducted a field test, in Providence, to prepare for the 2020 census.) Many states have state-level outreach campaigns to encourage participation, and they plan to rely on connections with local trusted groups and people to encourage everyone to fill out the census form, which we’re all legally bound to do.

It would be fantastic if, at a future training, a judge who has had to redistrict based on a court case could present.

Love the idea. We’re working on it.

What is the difference between this training and the training offered in Nashville and Columbus?

At NCSL's Legislative Summit in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 4-8, our agenda is set, and exciting. Select the elections and redistricting track. For Columbus, the agenda is still developing, and we will have an emphasis on technology—while still covering the basics. To get an idea of what we’ll offer, look at the Providence agenda and see all the presentations offered by our fabulous faculty. Columbus registration is now open. And in the meantime, we’re happy to take questions at

Wendy Underhill is the director of elections and redistricting at NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.