This year, all 50 states and Washington, D.C. will draw new electoral districts based on the data collected during the 2020 census. The redistricting process will impact the type of representation we have through the state and federal government for the next ten years, and how our leaders address issues we care about, such as healthcare and DC statehood. It's essential, then, that our new maps are drawn fairly.
Fair maps occur when the people choose their politicians, not the other way around. To ensure the creation of fair maps (as opposed to gerrymandered ones), we get the public involved by advocating to increase opportunities for public input and accountability. Through the People Powered Fair Maps™ project, the League of Women Voters is working at the national, state, and local levels to advocate for accurate and equitable maps across the country.
The need for increased public input and accountability has been apparent in every redistricting cycle, but this year it is especially critical. Historically, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) protected voters against racial gerrymandering by requiring states to prove that their changes to voting systems, including redistricting, would not have a discriminatory effect. The VRA made sure that jurisdictions with a history of racial gerrymandering and vote dilution had to clear their maps in the courts to ensure that they were fairly drawn.
However, in 2013, the Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder took away the requirement for states to get these changes cleared by the Department of Justice. This year will be the first redistricting cycle without the full protections of the VRA. Therefore, it will require even more effort from communities and the organizations that support them to hold map-drawers accountable.
Census delays have already impacted the redistricting process and postponed map-drawing. The new timeline means that many jurisdictions will have a shortened period to draw maps. This can create a less transparent process, with legislators trying to make quick decisions behind closed doors and lessen the time to gather public input. Therefore, we need to start now.
The League of Women Voters is committed to the fight for fair maps in 2021 and beyond. We are throwing down on April 29, 2021 to shine a light on redistricting and demand fair maps through a People Powered Day of Action. On that day, Leagues across the country will partner with communities and organizations to host a variety of local, state, and national events to educate and empower the public to have a say in how our maps are drawn. This will be an opportunity for Leagues and their partners to organize and prepare the public to participate in the redistricting process later this year.
Find a People Powered Day of Action event near you to learn how you can give input and fight for fair maps in your state! You can also stay up to date on national actions you can take to advocate for fair maps on the League of Women Voters US OutreachCircle.