With 100 years of advocacy under our belts, members representing almost every local league in SC gathered at the State House on February 12 to ask our legislators for redistricting reform.
Our morning began with a training session on the State House grounds, where Rep. Gary Clary (a sponsor of our preferred redistricting bill) presented us with a resolution recognizing our Centennial. He also spoke candidly about the difficulties presented by a legislature that is increasingly divided, both from a personal perspective and a policy perspective. He is retiring at the end of this session; his presence will be missed.
We then made our way into a packed lobby; advocates for issues from animal rights legislation to education reform were jostling and vying for a few minutes with their legislators. A line waited to reach staff members in charge of sending “Please come out to the lobby” notes from constituents to their legislators. It was chaotic but also informative and a bit exhilarating. Lobbyists making hundreds of dollars an hour were there alongside advocates who were setting foot inside the lobby for the first time, and legislators were coming out of their chambers to meet with both.
In an unfortunate turn, the House adjourned early, shortly after LWV members made it into the lobby. This was disappointing because the bill we want (H. 3054) is in the House Judiciary Committee. LWVSC VP Lynn Teague, who helped organize the day, had warned us that their schedules were fickle. With a shortened session (January-May) and a three-day work-week, there are a multitude of commitments they must pack in, and the nature of those commitments can change on short notice.
League members, ever resourceful and tenacious, quickly pivoted. They tracked down their representatives, left notes in their offices, and hustled to the opposite end of the lobby to meet with their Senators. To their credit, many were successful.
After a little over an hour, almost half of the group migrated to a nearby lunch spot to discuss redistricting reform strategy, offer feedback for future Lobby Days, and enjoy the company of League members they don’t often get to see. It was a great way to end our Centennial Day of Action.
The path to redistricting reform in 2020, which was always an uphill climb, has gotten steeper. Time is very short. House Judiciary Committee Chair Peter McCoy has called few meetings of this crucial committee and its subcommittees this year, and our preferred bill has never received a subcommittee hearing. We do not expect that to change in the final weeks before the “crossover” date of April 10, when all bills must have passed their house of origin in order to survive.
However, our goal remains the same. Whoever draws the district lines in 2021 – legislators themselves or an independent redistricting commission – should have a transparent process that accommodates meaningful public input and does not use partisan or incumbent protection as criteria. The incredible work put forth by local leagues this year to educate their communities on the need for this outcome has meant that this issue has gotten much-deserved attention – if not in the legislature, among the citizens. The result is that an extensive group of people understand the negative impact of gerrymandering and are willing to hold 2021 map-drawers accountable for drawing fair maps that serve the voters, not elected officials, and we must remain vigilant.
Co-Chair, LWVSC Redistricting Workgroup