As readers of the Baldwin Times, you know that the 2020 Census data was released on August 12. When this happens every 10 years (and we’ve done it in the United States since 1790!), we learn from …
As readers of the Baldwin Times, you know that the 2020 Census data was released on August 12. When this happens every 10 years (and we’ve done it in the United States since 1790!), we learn from the new data how our population has changed and shifted around geographically. It triggers a process known as redistricting. This process is complicated, so The League of Women Voters of Alabama has attempted to explain it in a series of 10 blog posts that take you step by step, with particular relevance for our situation here in Alabama. You can read the blog series on the website at lwval.org. We believe that this blog post series will give you an understanding that will show how you can track and participate in this process.
To remind you who we are, The League of Women Voters was founded 100 years ago when women finally achieved that right in the United States through the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The League of Women Voters is strongly committed to ensuring that all citizens have the right to vote on election day, but also that they are voting in districts drawn fairly at all levels of government. Fair and equitable voting districts protect the strength of each voter’s vote. Democracy can work well only if informed citizens make good choices through their votes. You can join us locally (and ALL voters are welcome to join!) through The League of Women Voters of Baldwin County.
What can you do?
FIRST, you can let your voice be heard in relation to our Alabama Congressional districts (the U.S. House of Representatives) and our Alabama state legislative districts (AL state senators and representatives). The committee of our legislature that is charged with redrawing these maps is called the Permanent Committee on Reapportionment. (No members of our local Baldwin County delegation are on this Committee.) The Committee has set a schedule of hearings all around the state for September of 2021. Our local hearing for Fairhope will be in Centennial Hall on the Fairhope campus of Coastal Alabama Community College at 2 PM on Sept. 16. The full schedule and a link to the virtual meetings can be found online if you go to the main website for the Alabama Legislature (legislature.state.al.us), then click on "Resources" in the menu bar, and then in the list on the left under "Legislature" click on "Reapportionment."
In the blog series, post #5 explains gerrymandering and post #9 explains the gerrymandering around Tuscaloosa as an example. Citizens who have concerns about how the boundaries of various districts are drawn can attend (either physically or virtually via Microsoft Teams) and give testimony that will be entered into the public record and, presumably, taken into account as the Committee redraws districts. A representative of LWVBC will testify about our concerns for fair maps.
SECOND, you can participate in local hearings for redistricting (county, city, and related school boards). This is handled by the cities and counties. Huntsville already has their plan set up, and you can see it on their city website. Keep checking the websites for your City and County. The concept of “communities of interest” is explained in post #10.
If you would like to give testimony about district boundaries, we can help you in crafting your written and oral messages to make your points most effectively. You can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently tracking down the rules for testimony at the hearings and will have the latest information (how to get on the in-person or virtual agenda to address the committee, how to craft your 3-minute statement, how to submit the written version of the testimony for the public record.)
THIRD, in terms of Federal legislative solutions, we urge you to contact your senators and representatives in support of the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. They do pay attention to the messages they receive from constituents. If you’re not used to doing this, you can simply have a short and gracious conversation with the person who answers the phone at the office, in which you identify yourself as a constituent, and then say that you urge the senator or representative to support a bill. If you feel more comfortable writing your message, you can do that via email contact on their websites.
Senate Bill 1, the “For the People Act,” has an entire section, Subtitle E: Redistricting Reform. The core of the reform, that the League of Women Voters strongly supports, is the establishment in each state of independent redistricting commissions that would be nonpartisan. This was passed by the House and is waiting in the Senate. It appears that the Senate is currently working on a more limited version of the bill, but it would include the parts that relate directly to voting rights.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by developing a process to determine which states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations over the last 25 years must preclear election changes with the Department of Justice. This passed the House last week and will now go to the Senate.
Remember that the maps that result from this redistricting will be part of our lives for a full ten years until we revisit them at the next Census in 2030. Please join us in making them as fair as possible for the citizens of Alabama.