The following is a special update from All On The Line NC (Sept. 10, 2021):
The BEST opportunity to make your voice heard in the once-in-a-decade redistricting process is happening NOW. Earlier this week, public hearings kicked off in Caldwell County, where people stood up to advocate for maps that would fairly represent their communities. You can watch the recording here or read AOTL NC State Director Lekha Shupeck’s twitter thread on the hearing here.
The week of September 13 there will be hearings in Forsyth, Pasquotank, Durham, Nash, Alamance and Pitt Counties. NOTE: The only hearing scheduled for Western North Carolina is Tuesday, September 21, at 5 p.m., at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.
If you live in or near one of these counties and you feel safe to attend in person, please come out and make your voice heard! While you can always submit comments via the online portal, this is an opportunity to look members of the redistricting committee in the eyes, tell them what you expect from them, and advocate for your community.
Q: I want to make a comment but I’m not a redistricting expert. What should I say?
A: One important thing to remember is, you have important local information about where you live, and what your community needs, that can and should inform the maps. The only way we can hold map drawers accountable for not splitting communities is if we tell them where those communities are. So, no matter where you live you can provide an important data point that can help your community be represented fairly in any future maps. For more on this, including some real-world examples of effective public comments, please join an AOTL NC Public Testimony Training any of the next three Mondays to help you prepare your testimony.
Q: The party in power will just do what it wants anyway. Will this even matter?
A: Yes. It will matter. First, because the people in charge of this process work for us, and we deserve to have a say. As Timothy Snyder writes in “On Tyranny”, the first rule of resisting tyranny is, “Do not obey in advance.” We cannot just disengage because we think we won’t win. Second, there is the possibility that input will be implemented. Research shows that certain kinds of input ARE likely to impact the maps, even when they are drawn by a political body rather than an independent commission. And third, this is North Carolina and the chances that the maps we get from this process will be challenged in court are…not zero. And if the maps are litigated, it will be important to have a public record that shows what the people of this state were asking for. So if the redistricting committee does split communities for partisan advantage, at least they won’t be able to argue that they didn’t know any better.
Q: What if I’m already happy with my district?
A: A couple things to think about here. The population of North Carolina has grown, and it has shifted. We’re getting a whole new congressional district, and depending on where you live, your area may be losing or gaining legislative seats. The lines are going to change. If you’re happy with your current district, it’s worth your time to let the committee know where your community is, and why, as specifically as you can, your current district works for you, or what you want to remain consistent in any future districts. You may also want to think about the different levels of ballot. Look at the current and former NC House, NC Senate, and Congressional maps and see if there is specific guidance you can offer based on where you live and what you would like to see in new maps. And last, if you have specific requests or recommendations for the committee (like adding hearings around the state after draft maps are released!), this is a good time to mention those things, especially if you don’t have geographically specific comments to make.