Let’s face it, there’s nothing too sexy about redistricting.

It’s confusing, it’s complicated, and it generally happens out of sight, out of mind. As such, most voters don’t know or care much about it.

But this opaque ritual of redrawing legislative boundaries that happens every 10 years has a tremendous impact on the balance of power in our political system. And it ultimately plays a key role in determining how much our votes actually count on Election Day.

So significant is this process that former President Barack Obama (remember him?) is teaming up with Eric Holder, his old attorney general, to try to change how political districts are formed.

With an eye toward 2021, when states redraw their lines, Holder has stepped up to lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a newly formed political group aimed at reforming the redistricting process. The group contends that previous redistricting efforts have been unfair and undemocratic, orchestrated by Republicans to help solidify their power in Washington and many states.

“[Obama] thinks, and I think, that this is something that threatens our democracy,” Holder told the New York Times. “We have a system now where the politicians are picking their voters, as opposed to voters making selections about who they want to represent them.”

So how does this redistricting thing work, anyway? This great interactive by Newsbound helps lay it out. Note that this resource was originally produced for Change Illinois, a group that advocates for state political reform (hence the Illinois references). It’s since been updated — with editorial input from yours truly — to present a more balanced analysis.

And if you’re still hungry for more (because come on, what could be more exciting?), check out this related collection of Lowdown posts from 2012.


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @KQEDlowdown

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