Common Cause Supports Redistricting Reform Bill

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At a press conference today, Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) unveiled SB 491, which provides transparency and accountability procedures for redistricting Georgia’s General Assembly and congressional districts after the 2020 Census. Common Cause Georgia was one of several organizations that joined the press conference to support the measure.

Statement by Cindy Battles on Behalf of Common Cause Georgia

I’m here today on behalf of Common Cause Georgia’s 21,000 plus members. Thank you to Senator Parent and the amazing partners standing alongside me today.  Common Cause is a nonpartisan watchdog organization with 1.1 million members nationwide.  We work to hold power accountable and put people, not politicians at the center of the conversation.

In our democracy, everyone vote should count, every voice should be heard. But when redistricting is completed behind closed doors by political insiders, it leads to gerrymandering that silences voters and steals their votes. We’ve seen recent elections where 82 percent of the state districts had only one major party candidate — the highest percentage of any other state in the country. Voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.

To be clear, reforming the redistricting process is not about taking power from one party and giving it to another. That’s how redistricting has worked for decades. We know recent redistricting cycles have seen effective gerrymanders from both Democrats and Republicans. This has contributed to a disconnect between politicians and their voters, a lack of faith in the electoral process, and policies that put the needs of a privileged few ahead of everyone else.

Real redistricting reform is about putting the power to select elected representatives back where it belongs: with the voters.

Georgia is not alone in the fight to end gerrymandering. An unprecedented 5 states passed reform in 2018. Citizen activists in Oregon, and Nevada, and Oklahoma and Arkansas plan to put redistricting reform on the November 2020 ballot.  Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Rhode Island are moving legislation this session to reform the process.

Here’s what we know for sure: Something must be done this session to ensure that we have a fairer and more transparent redistricting process that works for the people, not political insiders in 2021. The 2020 Census is underway and map-drawing will begin in less than a year. This is our best opportunity to improve the map-drawing process in 2021 which will, in turn, determine our districts for the next decade. Georgia’s citizens deserve to have our districts drawn in a fair and transparent process that provides opportunities for the voters to weigh in.

That would be a dramatic departure from the current redistricting process, which is conducted behind closed doors by partisan politicians with little opportunity for public input. This bill would require at least two public hearings in each judicial district, establish an online redistricting portal where the public can review maps and data and submit testimony, and shine sunlight on the process of drawing maps. In short, this would be an important step toward building a more transparent and inclusive democracy in Georgia.

Let’s be clear – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Democrats or Republicans in charge of drawing the maps. It’s not the party, it’s the principle. Redistricting should be fair, transparent, and focus on equal representation, not protecting politicians.

The people of Georgia deserve a redistricting process that takes their needs into account.  It’s time to pass SB 491.