Congressional district

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Congressional districts, also known as electoral districts and legislative districts, electorates, or wards in other nations, are divisions of a larger administrative region that represent the population of a region in the larger congressional body. Notably, Australia's districts are referred to as electorates or seats; in Canada, these are called "constituencies", or more informally "ridings". Countries with congressional districts include the United States, the Philippines, and Japan.



Terminology for congressional districts vary by nations. The term "congressional district" is largely used in the United States and is distinctive from legislative districts. In the United States, congressional districts were inscribed into the Constitution to ensure representation based on population. Conversely, state legislation declares that "legislative representation be (built open) non-population related principles such as representation of counties, cities, or other geographical and political unit". [1]

Apportionment and delimitation


Apportionment is the process by which seats in a congressional body are allocated amongst constituencies entitled to representation such that each district receives seats in proportion to its population. [2] Apportionment aims to fairly represent all voters through a principle of proportionality; however this is often difficult as proportions can be fractions whilst seats cannot be, and governments may be unable to quantify the precise number of actual voters. [3]


Delimitation or redistricting is the process of drawing congressional boundaries and can also refer to the demarcation of voting areas for the purpose of assigning voters to polling places. [4] Delimiting is a common process in nations with First Past the Post Systems, Two Round Systems, Alternative Vote, Block Vote, Parallel and Mixed Member Proportional Systems and Single-member districts. Nations without these processes typically have proportional representation electoral systems, such as Chile, Honduras, Norway, Spain, and many others. [5] The methodological framework that governs these processes is integral in administering fair and sovereign judicial systems for nations with delimitation processes. Manipulation of this framework often results in gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district boundaries to achieve political advantage for legislators. [6]



There are currently 243 congressional districts in the Philippines. Voting representatives are elected from these districts to the lower house of the Congress of the Philippines every three years. In 1946 there were originally 98 congressional districts, this number increased to 200 after the 1987 constitution was created and new redistricting articles were mandated [7]

Apportionment in the Philippines

The Philippines constitution mandates a nationwide reapportionment of setting boundaries for legislative districts; however, the legislature has not approved a reapportionment bill since 1987. [8] Following the ‘one person, one vote’ doctrine, political territories are expected to be symmetric and have limited variance in the size of its constituencies. However, many new districts have been created that defy the basic requisites for redistricting as the constitution fails to clearly expound the due process for apportionment and redistricting. [9] This has resulted in unequal representation in districts such as Calacoon City, and Batanes being represented by one legislator each, despite containing populations of 1.2 million and 17 000 people respectively.

Philippine's 243 congressional districts are composed of territories within provinces, cities and municipalities. From an American perspective, provinces are equivalent to states, and below that is the city/municipality which is equivalent to a city/town in the United States. Provinces are represented by governors and can be split into multiple congressional districts, each of which elects a congressman. Provincial governors allocate resources and control patronage in municipalities across all congressional districts in the province, thus have greater exposure and power than a representative from a single district. [10]

Delimitation in the Philippines

There has been no official delimitation process in the Philippines since the 1987 constitutions ratification. [11] As per Article 6 of the constitution, the requisites for creation of a legislative district are as follows:

Since 1987, 43 districts have been newly added due to the creation of new cities and provinces, sundering from existing provinces, and piecemeal redistricting. As incumbents control the institutions that determine the rules for redistricting, many of the congressional districts are allegedly gerrymandered to ensure the elite persistence of select families that form Philippine's political dynasties. [12] [13] This is illustrated by the Marcos family which remained in power from 1987 to 2008 in almost 50 congressional districts, despite term limits. [14]

United States

Congressional districts.gif

Congressional districts are the 435 regions from which voting representatives are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After the decennial census population counts and apportionment of congressional seats, states are required to define and delineate their own congressional districts for the purpose of electing members to the House of Representatives. Each congressional district is expected to be equal in population to all other congressional districts in a state. [15] The boundaries and numbers shown for the congressional districts are established by their respective state's constitution or court orders in the apportionment and redistricting cycle. [16]


Apportionment in the United States involves dividing the 435 voting seats every ten years. As per Article One of the United States Constitution, elections to the House of Representatives are held every two years, and the numbers of delegates are apportioned amongst the states according to their relative populations. [17] The Constitution itself makes no mention of districts.

The U.S. Constitution does not specify how apportionment is to be conducted and multiple methods have been developed and utilized since the Article's inception such as the Jefferson, Hamilton and Webster method. The Jefferson method was first utilized in 1792 after the first decennial census was conducted in 1790 but was abandoned in 1840 as it favoured larger states such as Virginia, Thomas Jefferson's home state and the most influential state at the time. [18] Hamilton's method was used intermittently for the next half-century and was eventually replaced by Webster's as the Hamilton method resulted in population paradoxes when the House size increased. [19] After the House size and number of congressional districts were fixed in 1941, the Huntington-Hill method became the official method of apportionment and will be used in the upcoming 2020 apportionment and redistricting cycle. [20] The current method solves many of the issues concerning previous methods, however it still violates the 'one person, one vote' rule established in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) due to systematic bias which gives more representation and power to small states than to residents of large states. [21]

These methods have been the subject of debate for over 200 years as losing or gaining a seat affects representation which is the source of political power. Congressional districts are subject to the Equal Protection Clause and it is expected that they apportion congressional districts closer to mathematical equality than state legislative districts. [22] The U.S Supreme Court in Karcher v. Daggett (1983) rejected New Jersey's congressional redistricting plans due to a deviation of less than 1%.


Many other nations assign independent bodies to oversee and mandate the delimitation of boundaries, however, in some nations the legislature manages this process. In the United States, legislature play a commanding role in the redistricting (as delimitation is referred to in the United States) of congressional districts. The redrawing of boundaries occurs after the decennial census; single-member constituencies are responsible for the election of the legislators that govern this process. [23] In 25 states the state legislature is responsible for creating the redistricting plan, however six states (Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) do not require redistricting for the House of Representatives and instead they elect a single representative who will represent the entire state. [24] Each state has its own constitution and laws surrounding the redistricting process and most of the modern criteria applied federally have come about through rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court. [25]

Prior to 1962, there was limited federal and state government regulation on redistricting and these were rarely enforced. However, after the Baker v. Carr (1962) decision redistricting became justiciable and courts became an active participant in the redistricting process of congressional districts as the decision allowed voters to challenge redistricting plans. [26] Since Shaw v. Reno (1993) and Abrams v. Johnson (1997), the courts have invalidated numerous congressional redistricting plans upon the basis of traditional districting principles. These decisions have been surrounded in controversy as the Supreme Court has not identified these 'traditional' criteria explicitly, resulting in the major political parties attempting to abuse the lack of legislation and definition to advantage their respective parties. [27] According to the database of redistricting laws in all fifty states and previous court decisions, the de facto principles are: compactness, contiguity, equal population, and preserving county and city boundaries. [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerrymandering</span> Manipulation of electoral district borders to favor certain outcomes of an election

In representative democracies, gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating undue advantage for a party, group, or socio-economic class within the constituency. The manipulation may consist of "cracking" or "packing". Gerrymandering can also be used to protect incumbents. Wayne Dawkins describes it as politicians picking their voters instead of voters picking their politicians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Representatives of the Philippines</span> Lower house of the Congress of the Philippines

The House of Representatives of the Philippines is the lower house of Congress, the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, with the Senate of the Philippines as the upper house. The lower house is usually called Congress, although the term collectively refers to both houses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States congressional apportionment</span> How 435 seats are distributed to 50 states

United States congressional apportionment is the process by which seats in the United States House of Representatives are distributed among the 50 states according to the most recent decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution. Each state is apportioned a number of seats which approximately corresponds to its share of the aggregate population of the 50 states. Every state is constitutionally guaranteed at least one seat in the House and two seats in the Senate, regardless of population.

An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, or (election) precinct is a subdivision of a larger state created to provide its population with representation in the larger state's legislative body. That body, or the state's constitution or a body established for that purpose, determines each district's boundaries and whether each will be represented by a single member or multiple members. Generally, only voters (constituents) who reside within the district are permitted to vote in an election held there. District representatives may be elected by a first-past-the-post system, a proportional representative system, or another voting method. They may be selected by a direct election under universal suffrage, an indirect election, or another form of suffrage.

Redistricting in the United States is the process of drawing electoral district boundaries. For the United States House of Representatives, and state legislatures, redistricting occurs after each decennial census.

Apportionment is the process by which seats in a legislative body are distributed among administrative divisions, such as states or parties, entitled to representation. This page presents the general principles and issues related to apportionment. The page Apportionment by country describes specific practices used around the world. The page Mathematics of apportionment describes mathematical formulations and properties of apportionment rules.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alabama's congressional districts</span>

The U.S. state of Alabama is currently divided into seven congressional districts, each represented by a member of the United States House of Representatives.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">California's congressional districts</span> U.S. House districts in the state of California

California is the most populous U.S. state; as a result, it has the most representation in the United States House of Representatives, with 52 Representatives. Each Representative represents one congressional district.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Virginia's congressional districts</span> U.S. House districts in the state of Virginia

Virginia is currently divided into 11 congressional districts, each represented by a member of the United States House of Representatives. The districts were redrawn most recently in 2016 by court order.

Redistribution is the process by which electoral districts are added, removed, or otherwise changed. Redistribution is a form of boundary delimitation that changes electoral district boundaries, usually in response to periodic census results. Redistribution is required by law or constitution at least every decade in most representative democracy systems that use first-past-the-post or similar electoral systems to prevent geographic malapportionment. The act of manipulation of electoral districts to favour a candidate or party is called gerrymandering.

Boundary delimitation is the drawing of boundaries, particularly of electoral precincts, states, counties or other municipalities. In the context of elections, it can be called redistribution and is used to prevent unbalance of population across districts. In the United States, it is called redistricting. Unbalanced or discriminatory delimitation is called "gerrymandering." Though there are no internationally agreed processes that guarantee fair delimitation, several organizations, such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Union and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems have proposed guidelines for effective delimitation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerrymandering in the United States</span> Setting electoral district boundaries to favor specific political interests in legislative bodies

Gerrymandering in the United States has been used to increase the power of a political party. Gerrymandering is the practice of setting boundaries of electoral districts to favor specific political interests within legislative bodies, often resulting in districts with convoluted, winding boundaries rather than compact areas. The term "gerrymandering" was coined after a review of Massachusetts's redistricting maps of 1812 set by Governor Elbridge Gerry noted that one of the districts looked like a salamander.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2020 United States redistricting cycle</span>

The 2020 United States redistricting cycle is in progress following the completion of the 2020 United States census. In all fifty states, various bodies are re-drawing state legislative districts. States that are apportioned more than one seat in the United States House of Representatives are also drawing new districts for that legislative body.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Redistricting in Virginia</span> Overview of redistricting in Virginia

Redistricting in Virginia has been a controversial topic due to allegations of gerrymandering. In the 2017 Virginia General Assembly, all of the redistricting reform bills were killed.

REDMAP is a project of the Republican State Leadership Committee of the United States to increase Republican control of congressional seats as well as state legislatures, largely through determination of electoral district boundaries. The project has made effective use of partisan gerrymandering, by relying on previously unavailable mapping software such as Maptitude to improve the precision with which district lines are strategically drawn. The strategy was focused on swing blue states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin where there was a Democratic majority but which they could swing towards Republican with appropriate redistricting. The project was launched in 2010 and estimated to have cost the Republican party around US$30 million.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Redistricting in North Carolina</span>

Redistricting in North Carolina has been a controversial topic due to allegations and admissions of gerrymandering.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Congressional districts of the Philippines</span> Electoral district for the House of Representatives of the Philippines

Congressional districts of the Philippines refers to the electoral districts or constituencies in which the country is divided for the purpose of electing 253 of the 316 members of the House of Representatives. The country is currently divided into 253 congressional districts, also known as legislative districts or representative districts, with each one representing at least 250,000 people or one entire province. The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines initially provided for a maximum 200 congressional districts or 80 percent of the maximum 250 seats for the lower house, with the remaining 20 percent or 50 seats allotted for sectoral or party-list representatives. This number has since been revised with the enactment of several laws creating more districts pursuant to the 1991 Local Government Code.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Redistricting in Wisconsin</span>

Redistricting in Wisconsin is the process by which boundaries are redrawn for municipal wards, Wisconsin State Assembly districts, Wisconsin State Senate districts, and Wisconsin's congressional districts. Redistricting occurs—as in other U.S. states—once every decade, usually in the year after the decennial United States Census. According to the Wisconsin Constitution, redistricting in Wisconsin follows the regular legislative process, it must be passed by both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by the Governor of Wisconsin—unless the Legislature has sufficient votes to override a gubernatorial veto. Due to legislative gridlock, however, it has become common for Wisconsin redistricting to be conducted by courts. The 1982, 1992, and 2002 legislative maps were each created by panels of United States federal judges.

Apportionment by country describes the practices used in various democratic countries around the world for partitioning seats in the parliament among districts or parties. See apportionment (politics) for the general principles and issues related to apportionment.

Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355 (1932), was a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States involving a governor's power to veto a congressional redistricting proposal passed by a state's legislature. In an opinion by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the Court unanimously held that the U.S. Constitution did not prohibit Minnesota's governor from vetoing that state's redistricting map.


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