On April 29, the League of Women Voters hosted our People Powered Day of Action to shine a light on the redistricting process and encourage people around the country to get involved. On this day, Leagues hosted over 100 events in 45 states plus DC!
As we continue to prepare for the upcoming redistricting cycle, we asked League leaders to share why they are fighting for fair maps.
What are fair maps?
LWV of Kansas, Martha Pint: The late, great Representative Shirley Chisholm said, "If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." We the People shouldn’t have to rely on folding chairs.
Fair maps are all about ensuring that the person holding that seat at the table (i.e. a political leader) represents our interests when it comes to [issues like] fighting for the schools in our community...It’s about that person valuing the diversity of the community they represent, whether that community is defined by race, ethnicity, religion, or another factor.
LWV of Rhode Island, Dixie Sampson: No matter the issue—whether it’s tax reform or funding for a school district—in America, it all boils down to voting, and right there is where fair maps come in. When voters are shuffled around into districts that don’t accurately represent their collective communities, the impact their voices and votes have is suppressed.
Simply put, fair maps mean fair representation, and fair representation means more power in the hands of the people, where it belongs.
Why do you fight for fair maps?
LWV of Oklahoma City President Rebecca Greenhaw: The redistricting process can seem abstract. It only happens once every ten years and may not seem connected to everyday things, such as living wages, healthy and affordable food, and comprehensive healthcare. Educating the public about the impact of the redistricting process, and how to participate in it can yield maps [that are] drawn more fairly, which, in turn, create more responsive representation and makes sure community voices are heard and needs responded to.
LWV of Ohio President Iris Meltzer: If the maps aren't fair, nothing is. I fight for the rights of all people, and if we do not secure fair maps, the rights of all continue to be at risk.
The foundation of our democracy is rooted in elected representatives working for the public. Gerrymandering and unfair maps mean that our legislators can carve out districts and choose their own voters. This leads to districts where it is harder to hold legislators accountable and move important legislation that advances the public good. Therefore, it is incumbent on me to fight.
What is your League doing to help achieve fair maps?
LWV of Oklahoma City President Rebecca Greenhaw: In 2018, we worked with LWVUS and our partner organization, People Not Politicians, to craft a petition that would create an independent, citizen-led redistricting commission. The petition survived two legal challenges, and we were just about to begin signature-gathering when the COVID-19 pandemic was identified. Signature-gathering was not possible, so without our state question on the 2020 ballot, LWVOK and the six local Leagues pivoted to holding our state legislature accountable for drawing fair maps.
LWVOK and People Not Politicians held and participated in virtual town halls, educational events, social media and postcard campaigns, yard sign distribution, Facebook live panel discussions, and more. On April 29th, we held a Redistricting Day of Action on the south steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol, which featured speakers, poetry, and music centered on the redistricting process to energize our state about the need to get involved.
We will continue holding events, educating, and advocating through the Special Legislative Session planned for the Fall, when Congressional Districts will be redrawn and the Legislative Districts adjusted.
LWV of Rhode Island, Dixie Sampson: With our People Powered Fair Maps ™ work, we strive to be a resource. By educating someone on how gerrymandering suppresses voter rights and showing them how it affects them on a personal level, we empower them to get involved. Drawing these connections can influence people to really care and take action. Educated people are agitated people, and agitated people change the world.
LWV of Ohio President Iris Meltzer: The League of Women Voters of Ohio, with its partners, is educating, advocating, and in the absence of other options, taking legal action. We’ve passed amendments requiring bipartisan commissions to draw fair, transparent maps for both our congressional and legislative districts. Both won with more than 70% of the vote! Now we work to educate the public about the process and see that these laws are carried out by holding our state accountable to its people.
What do you encourage others to do?
LWV of Rhode Island, Dixie Sampson: Ask people and organizations you know how to get involved! You can find a local League near you to find out what is happening locally. Like my mother says, “If you never ask, you’re the one saying no.”
LWV of Oklahoma City President Rebecca Greenhaw: Don’t get discouraged. Take note of the small victories you have achieved. Pace yourselves, as this is a long-term effort and is about structural change.
LWV of Kansas, Martha Pint: Tap into your own networks and share information on why we need fair maps. I am making sure my fellow Kansans have the information they need so they are ready to contact their state legislators. Advocating for processes like non-partisan redistricting commissions is one of the best ways we can achieve fair maps. Luckily, the For the People Act helps with that!
Tell your friends, families, and networks to contact their Senators to pass the For the People Act!
Redistricting gives us an opportunity to increase diversity in schools through greater integration. Drawing conscious boundaries is a way for leaders to remedy past discrimination efforts and highlight the true diversity of their districts.