Glossary of Terms


The counting and survey of every person in a population. In the U.S., a censusis taken every ten years. The census is required by the Constitution forreapportionment and is used in the redistricting process.

Census Bureau

The federal government agency that administers the census.

Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP)

Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) is the total population age 18 and overand a citizen. (Related to VAP) (CVAP and VAP should not be used forredistricting and could be subject to legal challenges.)

Coalition District

A district where the combined racial minorities make up a majority of the population and where the voters from these different racial groups votetogether to elect the minority-preferred candidate. Coalition districts are notlegally required by the Voting Rights Act. (Also called Minority Coalition District)

Community of Interest

A neighborhood, community, or group of people who have common policy concerns and would benefit from being maintained in a single district.


Compactness refers to the shape of the district. It describes boundaries thatare drawn closely and neatly packed together unless there are good reasonssuch as VRA compliance or following oddly shaped boundaries, like city boundaries or rivers.


A characteristic describing a boundary’s single and uninterrupted shape (i.e.all areas in the district are physically connected to each other).


A splitting of a racial minority community into two or more districts so that theminority community is not a significant portion of any district. For example,cracking occurs when a minority population is big enough that it can make up 50% of one district but, instead, is divided into two or more districts so thatthe minority community makes up a small percentage in each district.

Crossover or Opportunity District

A district where some majority voters “cross over” to vote with racialminorities to elect the minority-preferred candidate. Crossover or opportunitydistricts are not legally required by the Voting Rights Act.

Deviation and Deviation Range

A district’s Deviation is the difference of a district’s population from the IdealPopulation. The redistricting plan’s Deviation Range is the plan’s largestdeviation to the plan’s smallest deviation.

Ideal Population

The total population goal for districts in a redistricting plan. It is computed bytaking the total population of the jurisdiction and dividing it by the totalnumber of districts in the redistricting plan.

Incumbency Criteria

Making sure the current elected official’s house remains in a district.

Influence District

A district where a racial or ethnic minority group does not make up a majorityof voters but does have enough members of the minority group to influencesubstantially an election or the decisions of an elected representative.


Drawing of district lines to give one group an unfair advantage over anothergroup. Gerrymandering is not the same as redistricting, but gerrymandering can occur during redistricting. Drawing majority-minority districts to complywith the Voting Rights Act is not gerrymandering.

GIS (Geographic Information System)

Computer software used to create redistricting maps.

Majority-Minority District

A district where one racial minority equals 50% or more of the citizen voting-age population. In combination with a few other factors, a majority-minoritydistrict may be required by the VRA. (See Rules of Redistricting: The VotingRights Act)

Minority vote dilution

Drawing districts which result in minority voters having less of a chance ofelecting their candidate(s) of choice. This is often done by “packing” or“cracking.”


A redistricting rule where each upper house (such as the state senate) districtis made up of two lower house districts (such as the state assembly).

One Person, One Vote

The Equal Population rule. A phrase that describes the constitutionalrequirement that each district be substantially equal in total population.Typically, this means that every district in a redistricting plan should containthe same number of people, regardless of age or citizenship.


An overconcentration of a minority population into a suboptimal number ofdistricts. For example, packing occurs when a minority population makes up 90% of the district instead of two districts where the minority populationmakes up 50% of each district.


The redistribution of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based onchanges in a state’s population. This occurs so that a state’s representation inCongress is proportional to its population. Reapportionment is notredistricting, although some states use the terms interchangeably.


The process used by governments to redraw political district boundaries andapplies to all levels of government where district elections are held. Maps areredrawn every ten years after the Census to create districts with substantiallyequal populations to, at minimum, account for population shifts. There aremany types of Redistricting Processes (see Strategies for Different Redistricting Processes)

Totality of circumstances

A consideration of all the circumstances to decide a case, rather than any onefactor or rule.

Unity Map

A proposed map drawn by a coalition of multiple community groups thatdemonstrates their multiple communities of interest can be simultaneously respected.

Voting Age Population (VAP)

The total population ages 18 and over. (Related to CVAP) (CVAP and VAPshould not be used for redistricting and could be subject to legal challenges.)

Voting Rights Act (VRA)

The federal legislation passed in 1965 to ensure state and local governmentsdo not pass laws or policies that deny American citizens the equal right to votebased on race. Section 2 of the VRA protects voters from discrimination basedon race, color, or membership in a language minority group in all election procedures.