Redistribution is the process, used in many Commonwealth countries, 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.
[Boundary Delimitation Glossary]
ACE:The Electoral Knowledge Network. Accessed 4 July 2009.
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
In Australia, redistributions are carried out by independent and non-partisan commissioners in the Commonwealth
, and in each state or territory. The various electoral acts require the population of each seat to be equal, within certain strictly limited variations. The longest period between two redistributions can be no greater than seven years. Many other triggers can force redistribution before the chronological limit is reached. The redistribution is drafted by civil servants.
In Canada, the constitution mandates that redistribution occur "on the completion of each decennial census." District boundaries are based on electoral quotients, with some exceptions. When the census indicates that a population change has occurred, an independent boundary commission issues a report of recommended changes. Changes are only made if passed into law—by Parliament for national redistribution, by the provincial legislature for provincial redistribution.
India has an established process to redistribute its legislative districts. Redistributions are approved by political appointees to the Boundary Commission of India
The Constitution of Ireland
states that general elections to the Dáil
(lower house) must use the single transferable vote
(STV), that each Dáil constituency
must return at least three members (TD
s), that boundaries must be revised at least every twelve years, and that the ratio of TDs to inhabitants (not voters or citizens) be between 20,000 and 30,000 on average and "so far as it is practicable" equal between constituencies. Electoral Acts
are passed by the Oireachtas
to revise boundaries in light of the most recent census.
In constituencies for the next general election
, the 2016 population per TD averages 29,762, varying from 28,199 in Dublin North-West
to 31,270 in Dún Laoghaire
. Since 1977, an independent body (since 1997 a permanent Constituency Commission
) recommends boundaries, which the Oireachtas usually accepts.
The terms of reference of the Commission have set five seats as the maximum and discourage constituencies crossing county
A separate Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee
fulfils a similar function for Local Electoral Area
boundaries. A proposed Electoral Commission
would replace both the Constituency Commission and the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee.
Before 1977, boundary drawing was often partisan in favour of the government of the day. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 1959 was struck out in 1961 by the Supreme Court
as being repugnant to the Constitution because of excessive malapportionment
The replacement Electoral (Amendment) Act 1961
relied on manipulating district size
The Supreme Court allowed the 1961 act, ruling that the Oireachtas had wide latitude to decide what degree of divergence was "practicable" and what factors could be considered, but reserved the right to judicial review
of proposed boundaries.
A 1968 proposal
rejected by referendum would have specified one-sixth as the maximum constituency divergence from the average population per TD. Another proposal
, rejected simultaneously, would have established a constituency commission (ancillary to replacing STV with first-past-the-post voting
). The Electoral (Amendment) Act 1974
attempted a manipulation similar to the 1961 act, but backfired when a larger than expected swing
created a tipping point favouring the opposition in 1977
. There was a lacuna after the publication of the 2016 census results in which the Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2013
was in force but its 158 seats breached the 30,000 population average; jurists wondered whether the courts would have permitted a general election in the interim before the Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2017
resolved the issue.
Japan does not have an established process to redistribute its legislative districts. The frequency of redistributions is irregular and not triggered a particular event. Redistributions are approved by the national legislature.
New Zealand has a fixed process to determine how its legislative districts are redistributed. Redistribution in New Zealand happens every five years following the census.
In the Philippines, redistricting is carried out by Congress
after every decennial census is published. However, Congress has never passed a general redistricting act, and instead redistricts provinces or cities piecemeal, or creates new provinces or cities with legislative districts. The last general redistricting law was via the ordinance in the 1987 constitution, which was based from the 1980 census. The creation of a new province or city needs the approval of the public via a plebiscite
, while piecemeal redistricting does not need a plebiscite.
In the United Kingdom, there are four Boundary Commissions (one each for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) responsible for reviewing the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies. Members of Boundary Commissions are political appointees.
In the United States, redistribution occurs after each decennial census. Most states' legislative district redistributions are approved by the state legislature. Supreme Court
rulings (such as the one man, one vote
principle) require that legislative districts have roughly equal populations.
A guide to Boundary Delimitation
a series of articles from thACE Project
— from thACE ProjectBoundary Delimitation in the Legal Framework of Elections
— from thInternational IDEA
publicatioInternational Electoral Standards: Guidelines for reviewing the legal framework of elections
* Redistribution Overview from the Australian Electoral Commission
U.S. House of Representatives — District apportionment 1790 to 2000