Making our Votes Count - Fair Districts
The sage Hillel taught, "Al tifros min hatzibur. Do not separate yourself from the community." That is interpreted by many as a declaration that Jews should vote as one element of their participation in their community. Historically, Jews have been one of the segments in the US population to turn out greater than others. But voting only works if the votes count. How might our votes not count?
That is best addressed by how districts are drawn. In fact, the drawing of districts is not about making voting easier or harder; rather, it is about making our votes count or not count. When districts are drawn by elected officials, as they are in North Carolina and many other states, the elected officials are predisposed to draw districts that:
- Increase the probability that their political party will retain or increase their majority and power, and
- Protect their own ability to win re-election.
This is not an issue where only one political party has drawn districts unfairly. Both political parties in NC, when they were in power, have gerrymandered districts in the NC General Assembly and US Congress to benefit their party and incumbency.
Efforts like these devalue our votes. When voters know they are in a district where one party or the other is almost predestined to be the winner, some may not choose to vote. That not only impacts turnout for one race but all others on their ballot. Those people may also start to question whether voting is of any value.
Key is that elected officials should not be choosing their voters; that should be the role of citizens in their state. While changing that responsibility in North Carolina will not occur before upcoming elections, there are opportunities for all in our state to affect how districts are drawn for the coming decade.
The Joint Committee on Redistricting for the NC General Assembly has started its work to draw districts. When it had its initial meeting on August 5th, there were promises the process would be fair and transparent. It appears those promises may not be kept fully. We, however, can voice our opinions and concerns to demand the drawing of fair districts in an open process. Here are some initial steps you can take:
- Share your views with the Joint Committee through the NCGA public portal. You can offer your comments as frequently as you would like.
- Share your views with your senator and House member in the NC General Assembly. Even if you believe they support an open process, it is important that they know this is an important issue for you, and it should be an important issue for them.
Democracies are messy, but they can work when they truly represent the people. If election districts are gerrymandered, we lose our voice, and we lose our democracy. We can’t let that happen! If this interests you, contact Ron Katz ([email protected]), lead for CJJ-West’s Democracy Rights work group, and he can answer your questions and help you take further action.