Krista Brewer: Shining the Light on Redistricting
Last week, members of Georgia WAND, League of Women Voters, and others brought flashlights to a hearing on Redistricting. Why? To shine a light on the process. The redrawing of political boundaries, which happens every 10 years immediately following the census, is indeed a dark and stormy process, especially in Georgia. We really need flashlights and a lot more to see and understand what the process entails and how it affects us.
The target of the flashlight brigade was the General Assembly Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting. This is a committee made up of Democrats and Republicans from both the Georgia House and Senate. This committee has been holding hearings around the state, and just completed the last public hearing, where the flashlights shone.
Those of us who have attended some of these hearings have noticed something: it’s not clear how the lines are being drawn, what the criteria is, who’s making the decisions, and when or if citizens will get an opportunity to comment on the maps. These are just a few of the questions that have been raised at the 12 public hearings. And what answers have we gotten? Basically none. The committee, chaired by Rep. Roger Lane and Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, have announced at each hearing that they are only going to listen to citizen comments, not answer any questions. Humm, this really doesn’t create transparency and trust, now does it?
Redistricting is key to who holds political power and who can get elected in our state. But because this process only happens once every 10 years, it’s hard for average voters to plug into what’s important. Because of population growth, Georgia is gaining a 14th Congressional District, which can be a good thing. But the political battle over how to redraw the lines can leave some Georgians with diminished voting power. The Georgia Redistricting Alliance has developed a list of standards for fair and equitable redistricting.
- No plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.
- Districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of minorities.
- Districts shall consist of contiguous territory; and to the extent feasible, districts shall be compact.
- Pursuant to the principle of “one person, one vote,” districts shall be as equal in population as possible.
- Where feasible, apportionment plans shall make use of existing, city, county, and geographical boundaries, and similar communities of interest.
There’s more information about the redistricting process on the Georgia League of Women Voters website . Also, you can go on the web site for the General Assembly’s Redistricting Committee website. There they have additional information about redistricting and videos of all the 12 hearings they have conducted around the state. If this doesn’t put you right to sleep, you can also add your comments at this same site.
The redistricting battle will heat up when the General Assembly convenes in a special session starting August 15. Maps that are produced will mostly likely be reviewed by the Department of Justice for any voting rights violations. There is always the possibility of the maps being challenged in court. Somehow, this battle over boundaries has to be over by April, 2012 in time for candidates to qualify to run for offices in the November, 2012 elections.
Krista Brewer is a native of Atlanta and the past president of the Georgia WAND board. She now serves on the Georgia WAND Advisory Board and is involved in a range of WAND related issues including extensive work with Get Out the Vote and We Count! campaigns.