Every ten years, redistricting takes place in the United States. Redistricting is the process of looking at current political maps and redrawing those maps to better fit the changes in population and demographics that occurred over the past decade, following each decennial census.
In theory, redistricting is a good thing: it allows legislators to have new maps that are built around the changing population and holds them accountable to their changing constituencies. In Georgia alone, the population grew by over a million people and representation on the federal and state level should reflect this change. It makes little sense to continue to use the same maps, allocating the same number of representatives from decades ago.
Unfortunately, in the hyper politicized environment that we live in, redistricting has turned from being a potentially good thing to a bad thing instead. Thanks to gerrymandering, a tactic of drawing the maps in a way that dilutes the voting power of specific groups of people based on their gender, ethnicity or voting pattern, redistricting in many states, including Georgia, has become a partisan struggle.
Consider the state of Wisconsin. Thanks to redistricting efforts in 2010, the political maps were redrawn in such a way that Democrats required an overwhelmingly larger voter turnout to be competitive in the state’s elections. In the process, it not only diluted the power of the voters but cheated voters out choosing between differing political views.
Furthermore, redistricting isn’t just something that affects federal representation. State representatives and senators will also see their districts redrawn, meaning that there might be long term ramifications for the future of state government. And since it’s the state legislatures that determine how to redraw maps, you could say that state legislators have a vested interest in the process. The resulting maps are therefore often drawn in a way that protects the interests of the majority party and not the voters.
But what can you do, you ask? If the maps are already gerrymandered, if the redistricting process is already unfair, what options are left for voters like me and you?
First, vote. Just because the maps may be gerrymandered or drawn in a way that it makes your vote feel worthless doesn’t mean you should give up on voting. If enough voters choose to become involved, it’s possible to overturn even a gerrymandered district.
Two, put pressure on your legislators. Call their offices, attend their meetings and continue to call out any attempts to gerrymander and unfair redistricting. Let them know that you will hold them accountable for their actions.
Three, keep up with the news and attend any meetings for redistricting. Let the people in charge know that you want fair and competitive maps, not packed or cracked districts that dilute your community’s voting power.
No matter what, we need to stay engaged and make sure that we continue to fight for a more equitable and better future. The next special session on redistricting is on November 3rd.