Young Adults: 5 things you can do today to impact the next 10 years of your life
One of the most pressing voting and election issues is flying completely under the radar: redistricting. Redistricting affects every issue we care about because it shapes our ability to hold elected leaders accountable to deliver the resources our communities deserve for the next decade. It is important to understand why redistricting matters, who determines our redistricting maps, and why you should get involved in this process today.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing new district map boundaries for every level of government, from school board to Congress. This process happens once every 10 years, after the Census data is collected. The process is meant to ensure that even as our communities grow and change, everyone will have equal representation and voice in our government. In Maryland, the state legislature draws our congressional lines and can adopt of modify state legislative lines.
These new district maps determine who our representatives in government will be, where we vote, and what will be on our ballot for the next decade. Currently, the legislators in power are in charge of drawing district maps, meaning they get to draw the boundaries for their next election, in 2022.
Such great power means there is no check and balance in place for politicians who want to draw district lines that tear our neighborhoods apart if it is politically advantageous for the politicians in power. This concept is known as gerrymandering. Politicians have used this mechanism to dilute the power of Black and Brown voters from having a voice at the ballot box, the opportunity to run for elected office, and influence the decisions that impact our everyday lives.
No matter where we live, how much money we make, what political party we belong to, or the color of our skin, one basic principle of American democracy is that we the voters get to choose our representatives, not the other way around. If we don’t make our voices heard for fair maps, the maps will be drawn in the interests of the elected officials who draw them.
Your voice deserves to be heard! Here are five things you can do today to impact the next 10 years of your life.
- Use social media: Share your thoughts or information about your community on social media and tag your lawmakers. If you’re on twitter, share that information with both commissions via @MD_LRAC and @MDredistricting
- Letter to the Editor-Use or quick and easy to use letter to the editor tool to help get the word out about redistricting and to advocate for a fair and transparent process.
- Provide testimony– Local and state mapmakers are holding hearings and very few young people are providing testimony. It’s important they hear from you. Use this helpful worksheet to draft testimony and check out this calendar for a list of upcoming hearings.
- Mobilize your friends and network– use these free redistricting resources to help them learn about the process and how to make their voices heard.
- Community mapping– Mapping is a great way to help mapmakers identify communities of interest. DistrictR is a free and easy to use tool that you can use to visually show where a community is located to help make the case for keeping that community together.
Young adults have a lot of political power at stake when it comes to fair representation. At the end of the day if your maps don’t represent you, then your representatives won’t represent you. So much of our lives are dependent on the district maps, from the resources for better schools, affordable healthcare and safe neighborhoods. Together, we can secure fair district maps that give us a government in which everyone participates, every vote is counted, and every voice is heard.
Simone Volman, Sophomore, University of Maryland
Aleksandra Petrovic, Redistricting Campaign Coordinator