Lesson Plan: The Redistricting Process: How States Draw District Maps

The Redistricting Process

National Conference of State Legislatures' Tim Storey explained the redistricting process that occurs at the state level. He spoke about the different ways that states draw these district lines for both the House and state and local offices.


This lesson provides an overview of the redistricting process and how the census and apportionment affect it. It also has students explore the process, rules and strategies that states use to create Congressional districts. Using this information and a mapping simulation, students will compare and evaluate different ways to draw district maps. This lesson works best with classes with one-to-one devices or flipped classrooms.


  • WARM-UP:

    To begin class, have the students answer the following question:

    • Why do states have different numbers of members in the House of Representatives?

    Review the structure of the House of Representatives and how members of Congress are elected. Either as a class or individually, have the students view the video clips below and answer the questions. Students can also use the handout to answer these questions.

    HANDOUT: The Redistricting Process (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP 1: The Redistricting Process (1:59)

    • What is the role of the census during the redistricting process?

    • Explain the reasons for redistricting every ten years.

    • Describe the different redistricting processes that occur at the state level.
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: Apportionment and Redistricting (1:21)

    • What is apportionment and to which chamber of Congress does it apply?

    • What is the role that apportionment plays in redistricting?

    • How can changes in population affect the apportionment process?
  • VIDEO CLIP 3: Gerrymandering and Ways to Redistrict (2:32)

    • What are the three different ways that states do redistricting?

    • Describe what gerrymandering is.

    • Explain the two types of gerrymandering that Mr. Ingraham describes.

    • What is meant by "majority-minority districts?" How does this relate to the Voting Rights Act?
  • EXPLORATION: After reviewing the students' answers on the redistricting and apportionment process, have them watch the video clips below to learn about the different rules and approaches relating to redistricting. Students can answer the guiding questions associated with each video and/or take notes using the note-taking chart on the handout.

    HANDOUT: The Redistricting Process (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP 4: Technology and Transparency in the Redistricting Process (2:05)

    • How has the technology for redistricting changed recently?

    • Describe the transparency involved in the redistricting process.
  • VIDEO CLIP 5: Ways to Draw District Maps (5:51)

    • What does Mr. Bycoffe mean when he says that "there are a lot of tradeoffs when you draw districts?"

    • What is meant by compact districts? What are possible problems with this in the redistricting process?

    • What do Mr. Bycoffe and Mr. Wasserman mean by "competitiveness" in the redistricting process? What are benefits and drawbacks of this?

    • How can population density make redistricting harder for states?

    • What is meant by proportionality when drawing maps?
  • VIDEO CLIP 6: Factors when Drawing District Lines (1:06)

    • What are the different factors and requirements that Mr. Liptak mentions?

    • Why have courts allowed protecting incumbents in the redistricting process?
  • VIDEO CLIP 7: Redistricting based on Existing Boundaries (1:56)

    • Why could drawing districts based on existing boundaries such as counties and cities take politics out of the process?

    • What are issues with this approach?

    • What restrictions on redistricting apply to this approach?

    After exploring the different ways to draw districts have the student visit FiveThirtyEight's Atlas of Redistricting website. In this simulation, they will compare different approaches to redistricting. Students should select a state from the first dropdown menu. Using the second dropdown menu, students should choose the redistricting goal that they feel is best. Students view the new map and data and evaluate it based on the following criteria:

    • How well does this redistricting plan favor the Democratic Party?

    • How well does this redistricting plan favor the Republican Party?

    • How proportional to the state's party alignment is this redistricting plan?

    • How competitive is this redistricting plan?

    • How well does this redistricting plan address majority-minority districts?

    • How compact are the districts in this plan?

    As an exit slip, have the students answer the following question in a short paragraph:

    • Why is the redistricting process so controversial?

    NCSL State Research- Using the National Conference of State Legislature website, choose a state and research the requirements and laws that apply to their Congressional restricting. Summarize how they draw their lines and compare that to your own state (or another state if where you live does not have Congressional redistricting). Determine which state has a better redistricting policy and explain why.

    Researching your District- Using the U.S. House of Representatives' search function, research your Congressional district. Provide the following information:

    • Name of your district

    • Representative in Congress

    • Significant towns/cities/neighborhoods located in your district.

    • Explain the shape and size of your district

    • Is the shape and size of your district drawn in a fair way? Explain your position.

    • Does the current process of redistricting need to be reformed? Explain your answer.

    • How can political parties use the redistricting process to maintain political power?

    • Why do you think the founders decided to structure the redistricting process with states deciding boundaries?

Additional Resources


  • Advisory Commission
  • Cartography
  • Census
  • Compactness
  • Competitiveness
  • Constitution
  • Gerrymandering
  • Incumbency
  • Independent Redistricting Commission
  • One Person – One Vote
  • Packing
  • Partisan
  • Population Density
  • Proportionality
  • Reapportionment
  • Redistricting
  • Representation
  • State Legislature
  • Trade-off
  • Transparency
  • Voting Rights Act


Federalism and State IssuesGeographyLegislative Branch


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