The 2021-22 redistricting cycle will determine for the subsequent decade whether congressional and legislative elections will be free and fair or whether they will be inherently biased in favor of one party. With remaining ambiguity over federal partisan gerrymandering claims removed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause (2019), parties in control of the redistricting process will seek now, as previously, to use their power to craft district lines to their advantage. Lawyers will continue to litigate claims based on race discrimination, malapportionment, and state constitutional grounds, and courts may be placed in the position of drawing districts themselves when parties cannot agree on a plan. However, we know from previous cycles that the most important time to affect the redistricting process is in the frenzied year when lines are being drawn. Groups dedicated to redistricting in the public interest must be mobilized now to ensure that congressional and legislative boundaries reflect concerns other than those held by the incumbents drawing the lines.
The Stanford Public Interest Redistricting Project (or DrawCongress.Org) will perform a unique role in the 2021-2022 redistricting process. It will both influence the redistricting process in various states and serve as a benchmark against which incumbent-drawn plans can be judged by courts, the media, and the public at large. By creating and displaying a series of nonpartisan, legally defensible plans for all 435 U.S. House districts, the project will illustrate how communities can be represented and, unlike with incumbent-drawn plans, will justify decisions made among the various tradeoffs that inevitably confront line drawers. As with the 2011-2012 redistricting cycle when this project was housed at Columbia Law School, DrawCongress.Org will serve an educational and advocacy mission. This policy lab trains law students as the next generation of redistricting experts who will then draw a series of plans to be placed on a website. Each plan will be accompanied by a report, modeled on Professor Persily’s reports when he serves as a Special Master for redistricting disputes, which will explain the considerations in drawing the particular plan, justify the decisions that are made, and explain why the plan complies with applicable law. Accompanying each plan will be a block equivalency file, which will allow courts, legislators, journalists, or any other interested party to recreate the plan should they wish to deploy it in “the real world.” In addition, for the first time, the website will also welcome submissions from outside of Stanford if they comply with the requirements for each plan that is included.
The experience with this project ten years ago demonstrated how much attention a well-planned, nonpartisan outside redistricting effort can attract. Plans drawn as part of this project were submitted to legislatures, mentioned by courts, and depicted in numerous publications. (See Adam Liptak’s 2011 profile on the project at https://tinyurl.com/y8yon5u5) In drawing a nonpartisan map for all of Congress, this new effort will command attention from decision makers engaged in the 2021 redistricting process.
Deliverables: Policy memos, districting maps, final report, public briefing