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Ensuring fair redistricting is the League’s number one goal. The U.S. Census determines how federal, state, and local election district lines are redrawn. A fair and open process will create districts that are equitable as to population, geography, and diversity. Sound redistricting will go farther than any one thing to ensure that all citizens can exercise their right to vote and that their votes count.


Gerrymandering, Redistricting, Apportionment  | Where the League Stands  | Democracy Act  | Cracking, Packing, Stacking  | Section 5 and Georgia  | What Can You Do  | Sign our Petition 



Gerrymandering, Redistricting, Apportionment: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?  

Gerrymandering, in U.S. politics, is drawing the boundaries of electoral districts in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage over its rivals. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that districts should be drawn to reflect substantial equality of population. However, studies of regional voting behavior show that the majority parties in some state legislatures continue to set district boundaries along partisan lines without regard for local boundaries or even contiguity. In early examples, districts were so distorted that they resembled salamanders which, combined with the name of the first governor to try it (Eldrige Gerry in 1812), gave the practice its name.


Why It Matters: The party in power sincerely believes that it knows what is best and should remain in office. Gerrymandering is a “party in power” issue rather than a partisan issue; both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of it. In extreme cases, gerrymandering has been used as revenge against a single candidate, drawing electoral lines to prevent neighbors from voting for a candidate they know. South Carolina has been found guilty of such practices several time. In all cases, gerrymandering favors the politicians rather than the voters. It violates two basic tenets of electoral fairness—compactness and equality of size in constituencies.


To learn more, visit The Gerrymandering Project from FiveThirtyEight.


Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn based on the outcome of the U.S. Census held every 10 years. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. The U.S. Constitution requires that each district whether federal, state or local must have about the same population.


Why It Matters: The next U.S. Census is in 2020. As populations shift—geographically or ethnically—district lines must be redrawn to maintain fairness. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, will oversee the next Census and wants to add a question about whether the respondent is a citizen. In areas with large immigrant populations, this question could lead to those districts being under-represented. Ross’s attempt to add the question has been legally blocked so far and may be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court before the Census.


Apportionment refers to the act of dividing or alloting something according to a plan. For example, apportionment determines the proportional distribution of the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the basis of the population of each state.


Why It Matters: Apportionment intends to keep representation in the U.S. House fair. A sparsely populated state does not have the same number of Representatives as a densely populated state. For instance, Wyoming has one Representative whereas California has 53, the most of any state. Georgia has 14.



Where the League of Women Voters Stands  

The League supports redistricting processes and enforceable standards that promote fair and effective representation at all levels of government with maximum opportunity for public participation.

  • Responsibility for redistricting should be vested in an independent special commission, with membership that reflects the diversity of the unit of government, including citizens at large, representatives of public interest groups and members of minority groups.
  • Every redistricting process should include:
  • Specific timelines for the steps leading to a redistricting plan
  • Full disclosure throughout the process and public hearings on the plan proposed for adoption
  • Redistricting at all levels of government must be accomplished in an open, unbiased manner with citizen participation and access at all levels and steps of the process.
  • Any redistricting plan should be adopted by the redistricting authority with more than a simple majority vote.
  • Remedial provisions should be made for court review of redistricting measures and require the redistricting authority to act on a specific schedule.
  • Standards must be enforceable in court; require substantially equal population, geographic contiguity and effective representation of racial and linguistic minorities.
  • Standards must (to the extent possible) promote partisan fairness, preserve and protect communities of interest and respect the boundaries of municipalities and counties.
  • Compactness and competitiveness may also be considered as criteria so long as they do not conflict with the above criteria.


What We Do Not Support

  • Protection of incumbents, through such devices as considering an incumbent’s address
  • Preferential treatment for a political party, through such devices as considering party affiliation, voting history and candidate residence



What Is the Democracy Act?

The LWV Georgia supports the Democracy Act proposed by Common Cause Georgia and the ACLU.


The Democracy Act has three main provisions:

  • Enforceable Criteria – All parts of the Voting Rights Act are enforced.
  • Complete Transparency
  • Independent Commission

In the past, Representatives set up meetings on redistricting at a moment’s notice to limit public input. The algorithms used to redraw district lines were proprietary technology owned by the lobbyists who drew the lines, which meant the public had no idea how the lines were drawn. After the 2011 maps were drawn, organizations like the League were allowed to look at the maps one at a time.


We would like to see this amendment to the Georgia Constitution on the ballot by 2020.



Cracking, Stacking and Packing: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Cracking, stacking and packing are the three most common techniques used to dilute minority voting strength. Since voting districts should be drawn to include roughly equal populations and be geographically contiguous, it is entirely possible that voters in one district will be largely one race or ethnic group. The Supreme Court ruled that vote dilution, as opposed to vote denial, causes “an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred representatives.”


These are not the only techniques used to dilute minority voting. Purging election roles (as Georgia did in the most recent state election), moving or closing polling places that serve minority voters, putting difficult registration procedures in place (Georgia’s Voter ID law is an example), annexing areas, decreasing the number of voting machines (as was charged in several mostly minority neighborhoods in the most recent state election), and threatening minority voters have all been used to dilute minority voting.

  • Cracking fragments minority populations and disperses them among other districts to ensure that all districts are majority white.
  • Stacking combines large minority populations with a greater number of white voters in order to, again, ensure that districts are majority white.
  • Packing concentrates as many minorities as possible in as few districts as possible to minimize the number of districts where the majority of voters are members of a minority.

Why They Matter

All three techniques aim at diluting the impact of minority voters, specifically African-Americans. They violate both the Constitution since their purpose is to further racial discrimination and the Voting Rights Act since they dilute minority voting strength.



The Voting Rights Act, Section 5 and Georgia

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, originally signed in 1965, requires nine states that historically used discriminatory tests for voting and had low levels of voter participation to obtain federal approval (preclearance) before enacting new voting laws. Georgia is one of those states.


Enacted as a temporary, five-year measure, Section 5 has been extended four times and is now set to expire in 2032. In the most recent extension in 2006, Congress found that all nine states were still guilty of “racially polarized voting” which “demonstrates that racial and language minorities remain politically vulnerable, warranting the continued protection of the Voting Rights Act.”


Several of the suits filed by the ACLU following the 2018 state elections in Georgia fell under Section 5 provisions. Unfairly targeting minorities in purging voter roles, closing polling places or failing to provide enough voting machines in minority neighborhoods, failing to count absentee ballots, identification requirements such as exact match which unduly effects minorities are all examples of discriminatory practices prohibited by Section 5.


If you have a comment on Section 5, call 800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767, or email


To learn more about Section 5, visit


What Can You Do

To echo the tagline of the Washington Post, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Redistricting, especially as it has been practiced in Georgia, has not been a transparent, open process allowing organizations adequate time to review and comment or citizens enough notice to respond to changes. To ensure fairness in redistricting we must all be involved in the process. We need to stay informed of plans to redraw district lines, attend meetings, write letters of support or opposition to elected officials and the Department of Justice, and seek legal advice if necessary.


Georgia State Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee

Georgia House of Representatives Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee

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Phone: 912-328-3953

LWV of Coastal Georgia

PO Box 10593

Savannah, GA 31412