WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a statement released today, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a guidance document regarding redistricting following the release of the 2020 census data. The guidance focuses on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which prohibits voting practices that discriminate based on race, color or membership in a language minority group, whether denied equal access is the intention or result of a given practice. “This official guidance helps jurisdictions comply with the VRA when redrawing electoral maps to ensure that all people have an equal and fair opportunity to elect representatives of their choice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The guidance first outlines how the department will enforce Section 2, evaluating the election methods of all jurisdiction types — U.S. House of Representatives seats, state legislatures, county commissions, school boards and more — by looking at the particular facts in each area. The department will have a heightened awareness for racial discrimination that has a history of occurring at the local level. The guidance goes on to explain the case law governing the two prongs under which redistricting can be challenged under Section 2: if a map was enacted with discriminatory intent or if it has a discriminatory result. Finally, the guidance highlights the 14th Amendment’s constitutional requirements for redistricting and how the department will utilize racial categories provided in the 2020 census data.