Lesson Plan: What to expect during the 2020 Redistricting Process

The Process for Reapportionment and Redistricting in 2021

Brennan Center for Justice Senior Counsel Michael Li discussed the 2020 Census results and the upcoming process for using the 2020 U.S. Census data for redistricting in 2021.


Following the 2020 Census, states are responsible for redrawing congressional district lines. This lesson looks at the processes that states will use during the 2020 redistricting cycle. Students will identify the policies guiding redistricting, recent changes to this process, and unique challenges that states will face in 2021 and 2022. Using this information, students will make predictions about what to expect during the 2020 process.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or independently by students.

    Each activity, video and handout included in the lesson can be linked to an online discussion board or learning management system. You can also save and share the following Google handout for students to use with this lesson.

    Handout: The 2020 Redistricting Process (Google Doc)

    By making a copy of this Google Doc, you can adjust the instructions to meet the needs of your class and provide that copy to your students. Your students can also make a copy and complete the assignments digitally in the space provided.

  • WARM-UP:

    To begin class, as a pre-assessment, have students brainstorm answers to the following questions.

    • What determines the number of members of the House of Representatives from each state?

    • Who has the power over redrawing congressional districts?

    • How does the redistricting process work?

    • What questions do you have about the redistricting process?

    Review the answers with the students and address any confusion or misconceptions. Ensure that students have a basic understanding of how the House of Representatives is structured.

    Students should be able to explain how each of these vocabulary terms relate to the process of redrawing congressional districts.

    Students can research these terms and come up with their own definition on the handout. They can also use the handout to briefly explain how the term relates to redrawing congressional district lines.

    • Census

    • Gerrymandering

    • Independent Redistricting Commissions

    • Partisan

    • Reapportionment

    • Redistricting

    After students understand the terms referenced above, introduce them to the reapportionment and redistricting process that is occurring in 2021. View the video clip either as a class or individually and have students answer each question.

    Video Clip 1: The Process for Reapportionment and Redistricting in 2021 (3:20)

    • Which states gained House seats after the 2020 Census?

    • Which states lost House seats after the 2020 Census?

    • How does the U.S. Census impact the number of House seats per state?

    • Describe the process and timeline that states will use to redistrict.

    Students will use the following video clips of elected officials and policy experts discussing the 2020 redistricting cycle to make predictions. They will use the video clips below to explore how the process will be different this year, the procedures being used, and possible concerns. Students should take notes on the following categories using the handout as they learn. Student can also use the guiding questions associated with each video clip.

    Handout: The 2020 Redistricting Process (Google Doc)

    • Policies and Procedures Relating to Redistricting

    • Changes in the 2020 Redistricting Cycle

    • Challenges or Concerns for the 2020 Redistricting Cycle
  • Video Clip 2: Independent Redistricting Commissions (3:00)

    • Based on the map, which areas of the country (in red, blue, and purple) rely on state legislatures to redraw their congressional districts.

    • Based on the map, which areas of the country (in yellow) use redistricting commissions to redraw their congressional districts.

    • How do commissions vary in how they function?

    • How can commissions reduce the amount of politics involved in redistricting?
  • Video Clip 3: New Changes in the 2021 Redistricting Cycle (2:51)

    • How did the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder impact the redistricting process?

    • How did recent Supreme Court rulings address the issue of partisan and racial gerrymandering?

    • How have the number of independent redistricting commissions changed since 2011?

    • What proposed federal legislation might impact the redistricting process?
  • Video Clip 4: Risks for Gerrymandering in the 2021 Redistricting Cycle (4:19)

    • What concerns does Michael Li have about one party controlling the redistricting process?

    • How might Supreme Court decisions relating to the Voting Rights Act and partisan gerrymandering impact redistricting this cycle?

    • According to Michael Li, what impact might race and political party have on redistricting?

    • How did Colorado and Michigan change their redistricting process this cycle?
  • Video Clip 5: Concerns about Census Delays and State Redistricting Deadlines (2:09)

    • Describe the delays in delivering the 2020 Census results.

    • What problems will the delays in the 2020 Census data cause state legislatures?

    • What does Senator Lankford mean when he says that this will “create an enormous litigation nightmare” in the states?

    • How might these delays impact redistricting efforts across the country?

    After providing time for the students to explore the video clips, have the students use their notes and the handout to develop at least three general predictions about the 2020 redistricting cycle. These predictions can relate to issues relating to topics such as gerrymandering, independent redistricting commissions, census delays or possible litigation.

    Handout: The 2020 Redistricting Process (Google Doc)

    For each prediction they should provide the following:

    • An explanation of their prediction.

    • Why they believe this might occur using evidence from the video clips.

    Students will choose one prediction and share it with the class to discuss.

  • WRAP-UP:

    To conclude the lesson, have students develop a list of questions that they still have about the redistricting process. You can choose to have students share these with the class or submit them to you individually. Use these questions to check for understanding and address any misunderstandings.


    Researching your State- Use the National Conference for State Legislatures websites on Redistricting Criteria, **Redistricting Commissions, and Gerrymandering** to research your state’s policies relating to congressional redistricting. Provide a summary of your state’s procedures and include the information below. If your state has an at-large district, choose another state.

    • Guiding principles and criteria for redistricting.

    • Explanation of who controls the process (e.g. commission, state legislature, etc.).

    • Restrictions on the process.

    • Explanation of why these procedures are in place.

    Redistricting Simulation- Using the redistricting simulation found on Districtr.org, choose your state or a state that you are familiar with. Complete the redistricting simulation. When you are done, answer the following questions.

    • Summarize the shapes and sizes of your districts.

    • Using the different tabs, how equitable were your districts in terms of population, race, and partisan balance.

    • What challenges did you face in this process?

    • What might be the impact of your redistricting map on the people of your state and their representatives in Congress?

    • How can redistricting impact how Congress functions?

    • Should the Supreme Court get involved in partisan gerrymandering cases? Why or why not?

    • How is the redistricting process an example of federalism?

    • How would you reform the way redistricting is performed?

Additional Resources


  • 2020 Census
  • Apportionment Count
  • Ballot Initiative
  • Census
  • Census Block
  • Census Bureau
  • Cracking
  • Decennial
  • Divided Government
  • Enumerated
  • Gerrymandering
  • Gill V. Whitford.
  • Granular
  • Independent Redistricting Commission
  • Independent Redistricting Commissions
  • Legislative Session
  • Litigation
  • Packing
  • Partisan Gerrymandering
  • Preclearance
  • Racial Gerrymandering
  • Reallocate
  • Reapportionment
  • Redistricting
  • Rucho V. Common Cause
  • Section Five Of The Voting Rights Act
  • Shaw V. Reno
  • Shelby County V. Holder
  • Shelby V. Holder
  • State Legislature
  • U. S. Census Bureau


Federalism and State IssuesGeographyLegislative Branch


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