a1 George Mason University
The 2010 midterm elections are consequential not only in terms of the candidates who were elected to office, but also in terms of the government policies that they will enact. High on the list of important policies is the decennial practice of drawing new redistricting plans for legislative offices. A new census reveals population shifts that will result in a reallocation of congressional seats among the states through apportionment and—following U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the 1960s—a re-balancing of congressional and state legislative district populations within states that aims to give fast-growing areas more representation and slow-growing areas less. Of course, much more than an innocuous administrative adjustment occurs during the process of redistricting. The individuals who draw districts are keenly aware that district lines may affect the fortunes of incumbents, political parties, and minority voters' candidates of choice.
Michael P. McDonald is an associate professor at George Mason University and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has authored several articles on redistricting and has been a redistricting consultant in seven states since the late 1980s. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.