How Districts are Drawn
Why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 plays a role in California Redistricting
One of the major policy victories of the Civil Rights era, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, established tough federal laws that limited the ability of states to disregard the 15th Amendment and disenfranchise voters with such mechanisms as poll taxes, literacy tests white primaries, and restrictive or arbitrary voter registration practices.
One of many forms of minority vote dilution is the drawing of district lines that divide minority communities and keep them from putting enough votes together to elect representatives of their choice to public office. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act specifically set up criteria to identify places in the country where minority racial groups voted at a rate that was disproportionately low compared to their population or registration statistics.
In 1965 Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act used these racial minority participation thresholds to mandate Department of Justice oversight of redistricting efforts in six southern states – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. The Federal government felt DOJ oversight was the only way to prohibit dilution.
Results of the 1970 census led to four California counties – Kings, Merced, Monterey, and Yuba – triggering Section 5 voter thresholds and falling under the protection of the Department of Justice. What did these counties have in common? Each was a largely rural county that housed a US military base. High numbers of minority soldiers drafted and mobilized for deployment to Vietnam, with low rates of voter participation skewed voting statistics and triggered Section 5 protections.
Any redistricting effort that affects boundaries in Kings, Merced, Monterey, and Yuba counties, including efforts by the Citizens Redistricting Commission, will have to achieve DOJ “preclearance” – a review and approval of how the new boundaries ensure Voting Rights Act protections. The Citizens Redistricting Commission will therefore have to demonstrate to federal authorities that their plan does not have a “racially discriminatory purpose,” and will not make minority voters worse off than they were prior to the change.
The ReDistricting Game
In the ReDistricting Game you are in charge of drawing the Congressional map. Learn about everything from redistricting fundamentals (equal population in each district), the Voting Rights Act, to gerrymandering.
The ReDistricting Game is from the USC Annenberg Center for Communications and can be found at their website, http://www.redistrictinggame.org.
Official Redistricting Website