Maps Make Democracy
By Dianne Anderson
Last call for one of the hottest topics of the decade – the drawing of the maps that make up the lines of democracy in America.
Depending on how those lines are drawn for fair representation, it could have a very positive or a very negative impact on voting choices and voting rights.
At the state level, www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov shows how the community can still provide input over the next few weeks, but civil rights advocate Corey Jackson cautions to not wait until the last minute.
The time to give input on the draft maps is now.
Jackson, political action chair of the Riverside branch NAACP, has facilitated the Inland Empire Black Redistricting Committee, which has been bringing the community together to receive public comments. He said November is a good time to get ahead of the curve.
If the community does nothing else for the next ten years, he said they will have done their civic duty just by giving input on the draft maps.
“Especially for people of color or African Americans, it will decide how much political power you have. It will decide who represents you, and the destiny of your community,” said Jackson, Southern California Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party Black Caucus and member of the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee.
So far, he is pleased with the level of participation, and he commended the late activist Walter Hawkins for helping local advocates understand the maps. Hawkins, who was a retired CSUSB data analyst, was the go-to man who broke down all the numbers so the community could learn the data side of social justice.
“That’s how we learned the process. We’re doing this in his name, this is his legacy in action,” said Jackson.
At this point, the maps seem to be looking good.
“Before we only had the opportunity to elect one African American to the state legislature. After redistricting, technically we have an opportunity to elect as many as four to the state legislature,” he added.
Sky Allen, Special Projects Manager for IE United, said redistricting is the next step of the process in using Census data along with community input on draft maps. Her organization has been working together with Inland Empire Redistricting Hub, a coalition of 22 nonprofits and faith-based organizations holding workshops for the past six months.
She said they are watching the Voting Rights Act and adjacent laws countywide, and sharing information with the commissioners who draw the new lines. Locally, she said the community can get involved by giving input at Board of Supervisor meetings, sending emails, or attending virtual events and giving public comments.
Virtual meetings are also held to hear community input on Assembly and Congressional lines. She said the state is going to be very fluid in the coming weeks.
“At the state level, there is a bit of bottlenecking happening. Not everyone is seeing the changes we want to see. That’s why we have to keep up the pressure because they’re starting to release more formal draft maps,” she said.
The other concern is getting as many voting rights compliant districts as possible, which isn’t automatic. Depending on location, some versions of the maps look better than others, but she said the community should look up draft maps for where they live.
“If you feel like they make sense to you and your community, who you engage with, you can call in or send an email in support of a certain map. Or if they’re wildly off, you can say this doesn’t make sense. Often times there are different [draft map] versions, you can say I like this one better than that one.”
Maps are formed partly from Census data and voting rights data, and reflect the community interest and input.
In the High Desert, Kisha Collier has also held regular tabling and community events on the importance of the maps, attended redistricting workshops, and provided tablets to ensure a hands-on approach and provide technical assistance. They’ve identified communities of interest (COI’s) with residents, leaders and stakeholders.
She feels it’s been a productive time with community partners, and advocacy has been critical over the months.
The good news is that one of the maps they submitted for Riverside County was approved. She feels the best move at this time is getting more community involvement to attend the continuing Communities Of Interest Public Comment meetings to share a testimony.
“Educate yourself to better help you make the best decision for you and your community. We need to hear from you. The redistricting process is a continuation of census efforts. You can accelerate the impact of those efforts by supporting the redistricting efforts,” said Collier, program director for Community Health Action Network (CHAN).
On November 12, the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission released draft maps for the state’s Congressional, Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization districts ahead of the California Supreme Court mandated November 15 deadline.
Redistricting Commissioner Chair Trena Turner said that the draft maps recently presented are a starting point for public discussion, and they are strongly encouraging Californians to continue to weigh in.
“A global pandemic and delayed census data would not stop this commission from delivering on its promise to create maps that encourage fair representation,” said Turner, a Democrat from Stockton. “We will have final maps completed and certified by the December 27, 2021 deadline. There is still plenty of time for the public to get involved. We urge you to join us because everything is on the lines.”
For draft maps, see https://www.wedrawthelinesca.org/map_viewer
For statewide efforts, see California Black Census and Redistricting Hub Project https://cablackhub.org/