The Basics



Quarterly Wrap Up


Congressional Districts

Article 1, Sec. 4 of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the authority to prescribe the time, place and manner of congressional elections. This generally gives states authority to draw and redraw congressional districts. That same clause in the constitution gives congress the power to alter nearly all of those state regulations governing congressional elections.

In 1967, congress did just that, and required that all states ensure that each single congressional representative is elected by district (2 U.S.C. sec. 2c). Thus, a state with 5 congressional representatives cannot have an election in which all voters in the state vote to fill all five seats. Instead, they must vote for only one congressperson to represent the specific geographic area (district) that they live in. This requirement ensures that individual congressional representatives are tied to a more localized constituency as opposed to representing the state as a whole, as Senators do.

State Legislative Districts

Most state constitutions grant state legislatures the authority to redraw state legislative boundaries as do many local government charters. Some states have chosen to delegate this authority either entirely or partially, usually by allowing elected or appointed commissions to establish district boundaries. Other states give courts the final word. Check below for a more in-depth discussion of legislative and citizen redistricting commissions.    

  • Redistricting Commission Types
  • Can a Legislature Legally Delegate the Duty to Redistrict? (Arizona)

More Learning Articles

  • State legislatures generally are responsible for redrawing state and congressional lines.

  • Congress does retain general authority over federal elections but does not use this "undefined" power to control congressional redistricting.

Who's in Charge of Redistricting?

Election Law Blog

Learning Materials