What You Need to Know About Redistricting

Most legislators don’t care if the district mapping process is fair as long as
the new lines ensure their own re-election.


This unfortunate fact is true even when the process unfairly affects people who look just
like them.
Mia McLeod was new to the S.C. House in 2011, when it was time to adjust districts in
the wake of the 2010 census.
Like most of us, she had not previously considered how district lines were drawn, but
she learned quickly that her district—a “swing” district—would be targeted when it came
time to redraw the lines after the 2010 census.
Seasoned colleagues who were not planning to run for re-election quietly advised
McLeod to be vigilant as the redistricting process unfolded.
On the surface, “safe” districts might sound like a good idea: pack a district with likeminded people to ensure a candidate’s re-election. But McLeod rightly found the idea
offensive: “I can represent people whether they look and think like me or not,” she
argued.
What McLeod learned about the redistricting process shocked and dismayed her: the
majority party gets to draw both state legislature and U.S. Congressional maps and does
so in a way that ensures not only the preservation of that majority but the erasure of
other voices.
In South Carolina, that means diminishing the voices of about forty percent of our
citizens by drawing lines that cluster most of them in a small number of districts.
Fair redistricting would use each new census to create districts reflecting the diversity of
our state and fostering competitive elections.
Why is that a good idea?


With fair districts, elected representatives would have to listen to their
constituents and work on their behalf or risk losing re-election.


Instead, the system we have in South Carolina allows the majority party to create “safe”
homogeneous districts where representatives are practically ensured of re-election, even
when they rarely (or ever) show up for votes or take time to listen to their constituents.
Such a process undermines the core of our democratic election process by creating an
environment that both stifles citizens’ voices and fails to hold elected officials
accountable.
Having researched the process, McLeod received permission to share information with
her House colleagues, but the materials she had printed to distribute mysteriously
disappeared.
Even representatives of majority minority districts—the people who should most
appreciate the need for fairer representation—privately asked McLeod to drop the issue
of reforming the process out of a self-interested desire to be easily re-elected.
South Carolina needs an independent commission to redraw district lines after the 2020
census—lines that will be in place for the next decade. This is the year that our
legislature must pass a bill to ensure a fair process.
Several bills are pending, but unless legislators feel the heat from constituents to pass
them, they will die.
Without an independent commission, self-interested legislators will draw new maps
quietly and behind closed doors, keeping the process hidden and off the public radar.
Don’t wait until you enter the voting booth one day—as some of McLeod’s own
neighbors did—to discover that the person you planned to support is no longer in your
district.
Contact your representatives now—and repeatedly—until they pass a bill ensuring a fair
and transparent process.

Nancy Tuten

Get it Write