The Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) requires districts to contain essentially equal total populations. Small population deviations are permitted if they are necessary to achieve what the U.S. Supreme Court has labeled "traditional redistricting principles." These principles include: maintaining communities of interest; creating compact, contiguous districts; or using visible natural or man made boundaries. A community of interest is a neighborhood or community that would benefit from being maintained in a single district because of shared interests, views or characteristics.
Public input is vital to the drawing of district boundaries. The public's input is needed to identify "communities of interest" and also to understand how a community wants to be represented: Do the residents of a particular community want that area to be kept together (to be a larger part of a single Council member's district)? Or do the residents want to be divided (in order to have the interest of more than one City Council member)?