The U.S Census released its once-a-decade data of everyone living in the country on August 12. It has already initiated a process that will affect Alabama for many years to come!
This process is known as the redistricting process, which should be an alert for all of us who love our state and the communities we call home. Gerrymandering has been an ongoing problem throughout the South’s history dating back decades. And today, elected officials continue to use gerrymandering to maintain power instead of creating a more reflective, prosperous state.
In recent years, there is a groundswell to introduce new legislation that would curb this issue by creating independent commissions instead of state legislatures that decide how district maps can be drawn after each census count is released.
What’s next in the redistricting process? Public hearings!
Alabama lawmakers have scheduled 28 public hearings in early September on new district maps for Congress, the Legislature, and the state Board of Education based on population changes shown by the 2020 Census. The public hearings will be held at community colleges across the state, and Alabamians are welcome to attend these public meetings to share their viewpoints on the upcoming process.
Public hearings have become more commonplace over recent years as governing bodies seek public input before making decisions or taking action on legislation. Public opinion is valued highly these days because it has been proven time and again how powerful dialogue about specific topics can influence outcomes such as representation. This input is supposed to be used towards the redrawing of district lines, which has an impact on just about every aspect of your day-to-day life; for example:
This input will be used towards the redrawing of district lines, which has an impact on just about every aspect of your day-to-day life; for example:
Access to affordable healthcare options.
The school zones you fall into and the quality of education your children receive.
Access to community resources such as quality infrastructure and the safety standards that are established during a global pandemic.
And most importantly, whether or not your community gets the fair representation you deserve.
If you’re not used to participating in local and state government, there’s no better time than now to learn about your local issues and make your voice heard. Redistricting will unquestionably impact your life, so get involved today and make a plan to attend a public hearing in September. We’ll see you there!
Racial gerrymandering is a term that’s used to describe the practice of diluting representation within communities of different races. It’s a form of voter suppression and was used to try and give one elected official or candidate an advantage over their opponent. Let’s take a deeper look into the history of racial gerrymandering and how minority communities are still affected by partisan gerrymandering today. You can learn more about what partisan gerrymandering is and how it dismantles fair representation here.
What Is Racial Gerrymandering?
Unlike partisan gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering – intentionally drawing district lines to diminish the voting power of a protected minority – is illegal. Racial gerrymandering commonly occurred by using two different methods. Firstly, the term ‘cracking’ refers to splitting up communities with common interests, diluting their representation for the issues that matter to their community. ‘Packing’ refers to concentrating the voices of minority communities into one district, minimizing the number of representatives advocating for their communities. Elected officials are no longer allowed to do this based on race, but these methods are still used.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It is one of the most significant civil rights laws in history and works to guarantee the voting rights of minorities under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On May 25, 1965, the bill was passed by the U.S. Senate. It banned literacy tests and allowed the U.S. attorney general the right to investigate poll taxes and their use within elections. In addition to these and dozens of other voter protections, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed racial gerrymandering. Maps that violate racial gerrymandering laws are challenged in court and often thrown out.
How Gerrymandering Still Impacts Communities of Color Today
Gerrymandering is still being used today and affects minority communities throughout the country. The two methods of gerrymandering we discussed earlier, packing and cracking, are the key ways elected officials sway representation. Many Black, Brown, Hispanic, Asian, and other minority communities lose access to valuable resources. These may include affordable healthcare options, government programs, and quality education.
Alabama Election Protection Network is working to engage and educate Alabamians on the importance of fair districting. Find out how you can get involved and stand up for the issues that matter to you here.
The community districting process affects us all, and the way district lines are drawn can significantly impact almost every aspect of your daily life. We’re going to take a look at how community districting affects you and your community. By participating in the line drawing process, you can advocate for fair representation for your community.
Access to Healthcare
Access to healthcare is of significant concern to citizens today. Many Americans are unaware that gerrymandering, the process of drawing lines in favor of one political party or elected official, can impact their access to policy-making, including state decisions about Medicaid. In past district drawing cycles, gerrymandering has been a decisive factor in blocking more residents from receiving Medicaid.
According to data from the U.S Census Bureau, 1 in 10 Alabamians doesn’t have health insurance. For some parts of the state, that number is even higher. While the topic of Medicaid expansion has been controversial, most people agree that healthcare should be a top priority for our legislators.
Quality Education and School Safety
Quality education in a safe environment is something that all young people deserve. 2020 was an especially trying year for students and teachers that presented safety concerns we have not encountered in decades. Gerrymandering diminishes a family’s ability to influence decisions about the safety and education of their children, and contributes to low-income students being restricted to underperforming, underfunded schools. By engaging in the line-drawing process, parents can advocate for better quality education and safer schools.
Access to Jobs
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, 91,065 Alabamians were unemployed as of March 2021. Job security has been a massive issue facing Americans over the last 12 months, with over 20.6 million jobs lost nationwide. Business and local economies suffer when the government can’t secure a stable economic environment, or pass legislation to grow the economy. When local economies suffer, so do their constituents.
Gerrymandering has a direct effect on our elected officials and economic policy-making. Small to medium-sized businesses especially suffer from the gerrymandering process of “cracking” or drawing district lines to split like-minded communities and voting groups. Splitting up local communities dilutes their voice. Rather than having a single representative making a strong case for their best interests, the community is divided between multiple legislators, often representing larger constituencies elsewhere and leaving them behind. When economies suffer due to lack of representation, local businesses can lose valuable resources and support, leaving them struggling to stay open and provide jobs.
Local representatives play a massive role in raising issues about crime. By participating in the line-drawing process, you can help to secure a safe environment and improved facilities for your neighborhood. Even simple additions such as street lamps can come about as part of this process, so take advantage of any opportunities you have to participate and share your concerns.
Budgeting for public programs and support services is also impacted by the district drawing process. When funding for public programs is cut, it can leave communities without the resources they need to overcome the problems they face.
The community districting process determines congressional, state, and local legislative districts, city councils, and local school boards. By participating in this process, you are advocating for fair elections. When elected officials gerrymander districts, we lose our power to choose who is elected into office and what legislation is passed.
As you can see, community districting can significantly impact almost every aspect of your daily life. Alabama Election Protection Network is working with grassroots organizations and faith-based communities throughout the state of Alabama to educate, engage, and empower Alabamians in the line-drawing process. You can get involved and stand up for the issues that matter in your community here.
1. Support Local Organizations Already Doing The Work
Local organizations play an enormous role in creating change in our communities, especially with the help of volunteers and supporters. Funding and having boots on the ground to make our passions a reality can aid in the success of the cause and help the organization’s leaders tackle the intricacies of the issue. For example, organizations like The Alabama Election Protection Network advocate and inform the public about voting rights, fair elections, and upholding the core values of democracy. With the help of people like you and other grassroots organizations, they can launch a redistricting campaign that will ensure a fair and accurate process for drawing district boundaries, putting communities first and not the needs of elected officials. Be sure to subscribe to a organizations’ social media channels and newsletters to stay up to date on current topics, events, and ways you can help. For more ways to get involved, volunteer with AEPN.
2. Make Learning A Lifestyle
Just because elections have ended doesn’t mean that we should stop learning about politics and how it impacts us. Continually learning ensures that you stay up to date with changes in politics and also allows you to brush up on what you already know. Start by doing a refresher on your basic knowledge of government. For example, what are the main branches of government and how do they work together and separately to make change? You can even learn about politics in your community and what laws are being proposed by virtually regular city hall meetings, virtually or in-person (depending on where you live).
3. Identify An Issue You Care About And Pursue It
In life, we all have things that interest us. It could be the environment, women’s rights, or social justice. Find an issue that you care about, do some research and start the conversation. Doing this will not only get a dialogue going, but you might be surprised to find many others who have the same passions as you do. Try speaking to your neighbors, friends, or co-workers; you’ll likely be glad you did.
More voices equal more change.
4. Contact Your Elected Representatives
You’ve done your research and cast your vote; now it’s time to get to work! A great way to get to know your elected representative is to start a conversation about policies and topics that you’re passionate about. This might seem like a scary task to undertake, but it’s as easy as sending an email, making a phone call, or engaging with them on social media. Making this connection allows for your voice to be heard and potentially begins the conversation for change to begin. Click here to find contact information for your elected officials.
5. Get Your Community Registered To Vote
A great way to stay politically engaged is to get your community registered to vote before the next election. In a recent poll by Medill School of Journalism, Ipsos, and NPR, they concluded that 29% of Americans who were legally allowed to vote in the 2020 election never actually registered in advance. This statistic is actually a pretty big deal when considering this is nearly ⅓ of the population that could vote. When such a large number of our communities don’t vote, their voices and views are not heard. This allows the rest of the population to make the decisions in their place. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get registered to vote. You can share organization websites like Alabama Election Protection Network and Rock the Vote who will even lend a hand if needed.
Looking for more resources to stay politically engaged after an election? Visit voteprotection.org to learn more.
Today, the National Women’s Political Caucus is the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to growing women’s engagement in all areas of politics and public life, including lobbyists, voters, campaign organizers, judges, and delegates.
1972: Shirley Chisholm is the first black female major-party presidential candidate
The first African-American woman elected to congress stated, “I ran because somebody had to do it first.” Several years later, Chisholm helped to create the Congressional Women’s Caucus and championed the interests of her district, including minimum wage for domestic working and daycare funding
1978: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women
This act amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical conditions, making it so employers could not refuse to hire a qualified candidate based upon pregnancy status.
1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is sworn in as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court
While holding office, O’Connor was known for upholding states’ rights and was often a swing vote. Her most famous vote cast was in the decision between Bush v. Gore, which made George W. Bush the 43rd President of the United States.
1984: Geraldine Ferraro becomes the first woman to be nominated for vice president on a major ticket
Running alongside Walter Mondale against Ronald Reagan, Ferarro became the first woman to make it on the ballot in a major political race. Born to Italian immigrant parents, Ferraro pursued a liberal, feminist agenda, breaking barriers in a conservative and male-dominated district.
1989: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the first Hispanic woman and Cuban-American elected into Congress
Born in Cuba, Ros-Lehtinen was the most senior member in Florida for the U.S. House of Representatives and the most senior female Republican in the House until 2019. During this time, she also became the first Republican in the House to announce support for same-sex marriage.
1993: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is nominated to the Supreme Court
Nominated by former President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg held tenure in the Supreme Court for 27 years. Ginsburg is a woman of many firsts, including being the first tenured female Columbia Law School professor and co-author of the first casebook regarding sex discrimination.
1998: Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay woman elected into Congress
Not only is Tammy Baldwin the first openly gay person elected as a U.S. Senator, but she’s also the first woman in the Senate from Wisconsin. While in office, she has advocated for healthcare reform and sponsored action related to women’s rights.
2001: Elaine Chao becomes the first Asian-American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet
Appointed by former President George W. Bush, Chao focused on improving overtime regulations for workers and securing unions and workers’ regulations during her eight-year tenure. Between 2017 to 2021, Chao also served as Secretary of Transportation in the Trump administrations.
2005: Condoleezza Rice serves as the first woman and African-American Secretary of State
As Secretary of State, Rice focused on transformational diplomacy to build and maintain democratic states in the Middle East and around the world. A woman of many firsts, Rice also served as the first African American woman and woman as provost of Stanford University and national security advisor.
2006: Christina Quinn is the first openly gay city council speaker
Holding the position of Speaker of the New York City Council, Quinn was both the first woman and openly gay politician to hold this role. In 2013, she ran for mayor of New York and later became President and CEO of WIN, a nonprofit organization providing shelter to New Yorkers in need.
2008: Sarah Palin is the first Republican female vice president nominee
Before becoming a nominee for vice president, Palin became Alaska’s youngest and first female governor. After resigning from her post as Governor of Alaska, Palin utilized her background in Journalism and became a news contributor focusing on the Tea Party Movement.
2009: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act is passed
The act requires that employers ensure that their pay practices are both non-discriminatory and that records are kept to prove the fairness of pay decisions. Under this act, workers can file charges of pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act without regard to the standard 180/300 day statutory charge filing period.
2009: Michelle Obama becomes the African-American First Lady
First Lady and lawyer Michelle Obama graduated from both prestigious Princeton University and Harvard Law School and worked in nonprofits and other distinguished roles. As First Lady, she made her position more relatable by utilizing social media to promote girls’ education, arts, healthy eating, and college initiatives.
2013: The ban against women in military combat positions is removed
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the ban on women serving in military combat roles. The ban opened all occupations and positions to women without any exceptions.
2014: Diane J. Humetewa appointed U.S. District Judge
As a member of the Hopi tribe, Humetewa became the first Native American woman to become a U.S. District Judge. Before this role, she held many other distinctions including, U.S. Attorney for Arizona, a professor at Arizona State University College of Law, and judge in the Hopi appellate court.
2016: Hilary Clinton is the first woman nominated by a major party for President of the United States
Before her run for President of the United States in 2016, the former first lady served as an advisor to her husband and 42nd President of the United States, focusing on children’s issues and health care. In 2000, she was elected into the U.S. Senate, becoming the first First Lady to win an elected office.
2017: Andrea Jenkins is the first Black transgender elected official
Before holding office, Jenkins worked in many roles, including a Vocational Counselor for Hennepin County government for ten years, a staff member for the Minneapolis City Council, and curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota’s Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies.
2018: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib become the first Muslim women elected to Congress
Omar is one of two Muslim women elected into Congress. She is the first Somali American, the first naturalized citizen of African birth, and the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Congress. During her time in politics, she has advocated for affordable housing, universal healthcare, living wages, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection.
Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to represent Michigan in the U.S. Congress. Before holding this position, she worked as an attorney with several nonprofit legal advocacy groups and as a staffer for former state representative Steve Tobocman.
2020: Stephanie Byers is elected the first transgender Native American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives
A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Byers retired from her career as a high school music and band teacher and ran for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives. Her win made her the first transgender Native American woman to hold this role in Kansas and the first in the entire Midwest.
2021: Kamala Harris becomes the first woman Vice President of the United States
This year Harris became the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history and the first African American and Asian American vice president. Before this achievement, Harris served as a U.S. Senator and Attorney General for the state of California.
Every time a U.S. census is conducted its goal is to count the number of people living in a specified area (called a district). When a district contains a prison or jail those who are incarcerated can be counted as residents of the district versus residents where they technically reside. The problem with this practice is that the census shows an increase in the number of residents for the district, removing the opportunity for fair representation and sending additional funding to areas with prisons instead of areas that really need assistance. When district lines are drawn to represent communities accurately, they have a greater ability to elect candidates of their choice and hold the elected officials accountable.
Who does it affect?
Prison gerrymandering affects communities mainly in urban areas. When prisons are disproportionately built in nearby rural areas, and most incarcerated people call an urban area home, census data becomes skewed, allowing areas with prisons to receive enhanced representation. Counting prisoners in the incorrect place results in a systematic transfer of population and political influence from urban to rural areas. According to prisionpolicy.org, in 2018, nearly 46,000 Alabamians were incarcerated in a handful of locations. With so many people grouped into these areas, it’s not difficult to see how prison gerrymandering can cause significant problems.
How can change be made?
With the help of grassroots partners (such as T.O.P.S.), the Alabama Election Protection Network is organizing a redistricting project to prioritize public education, outreach, and organizing across Alabama. By improving the fairness of the redistricting process, AEPN will help build a more balanced and reflective representative body to ensure Alabamians voices are heard and contribute to determining our policies and priorities. Learn more about prison gerrymandering and how you can help Alabama Election Protection Network put an end to these practices here.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundaries of legislative districts. This happens every ten years along with the U.S Census. Redistricting is supposed to reflect population changes and ensure that everyone receives fair representation.
With a few exceptions, U.S. citizens over 18 years old can exercise their right to vote in local, state, and federal elections. Ideally, elections should represent the will of the people. However, a commonly used tactic, “Gerrymandering,” is when politicians draw districts to give themselves or their party an unfair advantage.
What Is a District?
If you live in the U.S., you live in a ‘district.’ A district is a portion of the territory of a country or state. Congressional districts divide regions of a state in an attempt to equally represent the people. Several factors, including population, are considered during the drawing of district lines, which are later approved by state legislators.
The U.S. Census provides information for both the public and politicians to guide us in the redistricting process. The Census measures how population shifts throughout the country. When this data is collected, states are required to redraw their congressional district maps, “redistricting,” to ensure that the districts accurately represent the population.
How Does This Impact Fair Representation?
The way district lines are drawn affects how politicians represent our interests. When those lines are drawn to represent communities accurately, we have a greater ability to elect candidates of our choice and hold politicians accountable. It affects everything from the legislation passed in our communities to where our tax dollars go.
When politicians draw voting maps that benefit themselves, we no longer have the same power to dictate what issues are addressed in our community. We need to change the rules and create a fair system where voters choose the politicians instead of politicians choosing their voters.
AEPN’s Redistricting Initiative
With help from our grassroots partners, we are organizing a Redistricting Program to prioritize public education, outreach, and organizing within historically under-represented and under-resourced communities who have the least access to the vote and to political power.
Our primary objective is to educate and engage the following targeted communities by:
Empowering smaller organizations to engage their constituencies in the redistricting process.
Providing education on the redistricting process for all Alabamians, including communities in rural areas and those who have less access to resources.
Every February, this annual celebration recognizes the achievements of African Americans and Black communities and their central role in U.S. history. Read on to learn more.
1954: Oliver Brown wins Brown v. Board of Education.
Brown attempted to enroll his 7-year-old daughter in an all-white elementary school near his home in Topeka, Kansas. When the school denied his request, the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf against the Topeka Board of Education. The case, Brown v. Board of Education, made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which made history in 1954 when it ruled in Oliver’s favor, declaring “separate but equal” unconstitutional and ending decades of segregation in American public schools.
1964: Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States. The act outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and later sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, it prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools and public accommodations and employment discrimination.
1965: Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibited racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the civil rights movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act secured the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South.
Before this, only an estimated twenty-three percent of voting-age Black individuals were registered nationally, but by 1969 the number had jumped to sixty-one percent.
1966: Edward Brooke is the first popularly elected Black American senator
Edward William Brooke III was an American Republican politician. In 1966, he became the first African American popularly elected to the United States Senate. He represented Massachusetts in the Senate from 1967 to 1979. He co-wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibits housing discrimination.
1967: Thurgood Marshall is the first Black American justice on the Supreme Court
On June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court following Justice Tom C. Clark’s retirement. Marshall was confirmed as an Associate Justice by a Senate vote of 69–11. He became the 96th person to hold the position and the first Black American American.
1968: Shirley Chisholm is the first Black American woman elected to Congress
Shirley Chisholm is an icon for gender equality and racial equality. A former nursery school teacher, she became the first Black American woman in Congress in 1968, when she was elected to represent Brooklyn, New York, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1968: Fair Housing Act
A follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked the last outstanding legislative achievement of the civil rights era. From 1950 to 1980, the total Black American population in America’s urban centers increased from 6.1 million to 15.3 million.
1977: Andrew Young is America’s first Black American ambassador to the United Nations
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Young was the first African-American to hold the position.
1990: Douglas Wilder is the first Black American governor of a U.S. state
Lawrence Douglas Wilder is an American lawyer and politician who served as the 66th Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. He was the first African-American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since the Reconstruction era and the first elected African-American governor.
1993: Shaw v. Reno
Shaw v. Reno is a United States Supreme Court case in the area of redistricting and racial gerrymandering. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that redistricting based on race must be held to a standard of strict scrutiny under the equal protection clause.
2000: Condoleezza Rice is the first Black American woman nominated to serve as national security advisor
Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state and the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor. Until the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, were the highest-ranking African Americans in the federal executive branch’s history.
2008: Barack Obama is elected as the 44th U.S. President
Barack Obama is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the United States
2021: Raphael Warnock is elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia
Warnock is an American pastor and politician serving as the junior United States senator from Georgia. Warnock is the first African American and Democrat to represent Georgia in the Senate.
2021: Kamala Harris is elected as Vice President of the U.S.
Kamala Harris is an American politician and attorney who is the 49th and current vice president of the United States. She is the United States’ first female vice president, the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history, and the first Black American and first Asian American vice president.