ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A state’s legislature is controlled by one political party. To ensure continued control of the legislature, politicians may sometimes redraw district lines that favor their party to win in future elections.

This is called gerrymandering, or unfairly drawing Congressional or state legislative districts that favor one political party or population over another. It undermines the fundamental democratic principle of One-Person One-Vote, the reason why fair redistricting is crucial.

The redrawing of district lines, or redistricting, is done every 10 years on the heels of the U.S. Census. Redistricting immediately following the Census allows population fluctuations to be taken into account. It also equalizes representation in state legislatures and Congress.

“Redistricting is really done to make sure that the elective lines that are currently in place are actually representative of the communities that live there. Making sure that there isn’t a district that has less voters there than the district next door,” said Deputy Director for the League of Women Voters of New York State, Jennifer Wilson.

For example, political party A is in control of redrawing district lines but their number of registered voters in a particular region is less than party B. Party A could potentially redraw the lines in a way that would allow them to control the majority of districts in that area, even though there are less people in that party leading to a misrepresentation in government.

If my senate district has 50K voters in it and I have my one representative but next door to me has 25K voters in it and they have their one representative their voice is going to matter more than mine because they’re representing less voters than my district. But their elected representative has the same amount of power as my elected representative even though my elected representative has more people living there.

Explanation of One-Person One-vote
Jennifer Wilson

New York’s population has decreased over time. Between 2015-2019, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates its population has dropped from approximately 19.7 million to approximately 19.5 million. Depending on the results of the 2020 Census, this could mean N.Y. loses some of its power in Washington.

“Let’s say, you have one state where a lot of people have moved out and another state where a lot of people have moved in, that may mean that the state that has lost population is going to lose Congressional representation,” said political science professor Julie Novkov.

Some states, like New York, have made efforts to prevent partisan manipulation of district lines, by using an Independent Redistricting Commission. Independent Redistricting Commissions are bipartisan, or non-partisan appointed officials that oversee the redrawing of district lines.

What is redistricting and why does it matter to me?