By Ben Williams
Welcome to 2020, a “presidential election year.” But despite that term’s ubiquity, there are exponentially more elections—both in number and, perhaps, meaningfulness—occurring simultaneously.
This year, 5,025 legislators who will participate in redistricting (which we refer to here as “redistricters”) will be elected, giving them the power to shape politics in their states for the next 10 years—far longer than a four-year presidential term.
NCSL tracks the elections of redistricters on our webpage “Election Dates for Governors and Legislators Who Will Do Redistricting.” The first redistricter elected for the upcoming one-a-decade process was Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D), in 2017. Since then, only five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and Virginia—have elected all of their redistricters—the governor and all legislators. By comparison, in 37 states, all representatives and at least some senators who will be in office during redistricting will not be elected until this coming November.
Mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to occur once a decade, redistricting is arguably the most powerful political action legislatures undertake. Where congressional and state legislative lines are drawn can both literally and figuratively reshape politics—and thus guide policy choices for years.
Some states have delegated redistricting responsibility to a commission. In just under a third of states, these commissions redraw district lines for either state legislative or congressional districts (or in some cases both). However, even in these so-called “commission states,” this year’s legislative elections are critically important. In every commission state except New Jersey and Arkansas, legislative leadership participates in the selection of who serves on the commission in one way or another.
Regardless of how your state approaches redistricting, NCSL is the go-to resource for legislators and staffers preparing for the upcoming cycle. As part of your state’s dues, we can come to your state to hold a briefing on either the redistricting process broadly or a particular aspect of redistricting that is of interest to you. To arrange a meeting, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-856-1648.
Those interested in more in-depth information may attend one of our upcoming redistricting seminars in Las Vegas (May 2020), Portland, Ore. (September 2020) or Washington, D.C. (January 2021).
Ben Williams is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.