Shortly after the 2010 Census, states throughout the country will redraw the lines that determine how to divide the population of each state into electoral districts—a process called redistricting. The composition of a district affects election outcomes and determines representation at the federal, state, and local levels. In most states, redistricting is carried out by members of the legislature. But on the eve of the quickly approaching 2010 redistricting cycle, voters and elected officials in a number of states across the country are considering a range of proposals that aim to alter the redistricting process. One such proposal is to create Independent Redistricting Commissions (IRCs). An IRC is a committee composed of appointed officials who assume responsibility for redistricting within a state.
Our nation’s unfortunate history of persistent and adaptive discrimination in the electoral process—including redistricting reform efforts that have suppressed minority voting rights, ultimately leading to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA)—requires a careful examination of all redistricting reform proposals.