[The following post is adapted from an article in the South Carolina Voter by Shayna Howell, Co-chair of the LWVSC Redistricting Working Group.]
Waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision on gerrymandering in Rucho v Common Cause (a case in which LWV was a co-plaintiff), many of us were crossing our fingers, but we were not holding our breath. While we waited, we planned. And when the disappointing ruling came down, LWVSC was prepared to double down on our efforts to ensure that voters choose their representatives, not the other way around.
In October, I traveled to Washington, DC for an LWVUS training for the nationwide People Powered Fair Maps initiative. All 50 state Leagues had a delegate in attendance, everyone with a different story to tell about gerrymandering in their state. Several state Leagues have successfully advocated for independent redistricting commissions already, and although we have an uphill battle, LWVSC is well-positioned to lead the charge for such a commission in SC.
At our annual convention in May, local Leagues voted to prioritize action on redistricting reform, and a Redistricting Workgroup was established. Matthew Saltzman and I, with the guidance of Lynn Teague, are leading this workgroup. Most of your local Leagues have already designated at least one liaison for the group; we are so appreciative of their time and energy and are excited to get to work!
We are also pleased to have new resources – including a grant and communications tools – to jumpstart our work.
We have an ambitious plan, and will need the help of every one of you to see it through. Every league will have access to tools and resources that will show their communities that:
- Gerrymandering makes our political system more polarized and hyperpartisan
- We need maps that benefit the voters, not political parties or incumbents
- Without redistricting reform, voters will continue to have less choices in the voting booth. Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.
- Having a gerrymandered legislature makes it hard to make progress on other issues we care about, such as a high quality public education system and protecting our natural resources (see above: hyperpartisanship and lack of choice in the voting booth.) We have to fix gerrymandering first!
Our plan includes more exciting news… For the first time in years, we are bringing back LWV Lobby Day! Members, mark your calendars for February 12. If you can be in Columbia then, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We want to show up in large groups from across the state (on the week of our centennial anniversary!) to continue doing what we’ve been doing for 100 years – Making Democracy Work.
While there are several bills out there that would lead to improvements in the current process, we are lobbying for H. 3054 (establishing an independent redistricting commission and solid map-drawing criteria), which has bipartisan support and does not require a constitutional amendment. The bill did not make it out of subcommittee last year, so that will be our first task.
Although there is support for the bill in the legislature, there is also significant opposition, and they need to hear from the majority of South Carolinians who support redistricting reform.
We need you at Lobby Day, but we want to lay some groundwork first. There are many opportunities in coming days to have your voice heard leading up to LWV Lobby Day. They will include: testifying at legislative delegation meetings, writing letters to the editor, hosting or attending a People Powered Fair Maps Postcard Party (five times fast, anyone?) and reaching out to businesses and allied non-profits for their support. Look for these advocacy opportunities through your local League.
So… It’s All Hands On Deck! Gerrymandering has plagued South Carolina for decades, under both Democrat and Republican majorities. We are now looking ahead to the 2021 map drawing, and are concerned, since it will be the first since the Voting Rights Act in which South Carolina is no longer required to receive preclearance for their maps. This could leave the door open for substantial incumbent or partisan gerrymandering.
LWVUS has suggested this is our biggest fight since women’s suffrage. This time, we have the right to vote, now we want to make sure it counts.
By Shayna Howell
Co-Chair, LWVSC Redistricting Workgroup