[Image courtesy of atothejay]
Redistricting gets lots of attention in the years around the decennial census.
Usually, it's a political story; pundits and prognosticators assess how the line-drawing process will benefit or hurt the parties, incumbents, challengers and voters in different demographics, all flavored by intra-state geographic rivalries (urban vs. rural vs. suburban, upstate vs. downstate, tax donor vs. tax recipient, etc.).
For election officials, however. redistricting is like a huge game of 52 pickup. Suddenly, voters are re-assigned to new districts at every level of government, meaning that election officials often must also re-assign them to new polling places and notify them of the changes. As mapping technology gets more sophisticated, the impact on the election map can be profound. In Virginia earlier this year, the estimated cost for localities to cope with 224 split precincts was $10 million.
Split precincts are somewhat understandable; however, other "52 pickup" costs are harder to explain. Take the recent story from Peoria, IL as an example. There, the City Council's decision to defer redistricting until October means that the City Election Commission - which will mail new voter information cards in September - will likely have to spend $40,000 to re-send the cards with new district information later this year.
Granted, the expense is not entirely attributable to the redistricting delay. It isn't clear - either from the article or my research - why Peoria's Election Commission is sending the cards now; whatever the reason, though, the duplicate mailing is not only a drain on the City's resources but also potential source of confusion for the City's voters.
The election community needs to highlight for policymakers and line-drawers the costs - some more necessary than others - that redistricting imposes on election offices.
Redistricting is challenging enough for election officials without the kinds of costly delays facing communities like Peoria.
52 pickup is no fun, but it's even worse when you have to pay to play.