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Why Redistricting?

The fight for fair redistricting is one of the most critical forms of the struggle for voting rights and democracy. If we want to elect people who are responsive to our needs and issues, we must get involved in redistricting.

Redistricting is required every ten years on the basis of each new census. The geographical boundaries of every electoral district, from congressional and state representatives to local county commissions and school boards, will be redrawn, defining the electorate for thousands of elected offices throughout the nation for the next ten years. Redistricting determines key voting factors such as the party, racial, class and gender composition of the electorate for each district. It therefore significantly impacts who has influence in the political process and who gets elected to governing bodies.

The 2010 Census saw an enormous mobilization at the local level to ensure that everyone was counted. Now the districts, based on the 2010 Census, will be drawn.  To what degree will the new redistricting plans empower forces hostile to voting rights and social progress, or forces friendly to voting rights and social progress? This question will be answered in the struggle that takes place at the state and local levels throughout the country in the next year.

Historically, those opposed to political participation by racial minorities have created electoral districts that ensured that peoples of color could not elect representatives of their choice and that conservative whites would dominate elected offices in disproportionate numbers. In some places this meant the complete exclusion of African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans from holding public office. The civil rights movement struck a blow to this practice by passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlaws racist voting laws and mandates fair redistricting. As a result people of color now have more political power than before, and there are now thousands of people of color elected officials throughout the U.S.

However, the struggle for effective voting rights and fair redistricting is once again at a boiling point. On one hand, the growth in the numbers and changed geography of racial and ethnic minorities presents opportunities and challenges to further advance voting rights. On the other hand, this growth has inflamed the racist backlash against voting rights that is manifest in several ways.

The participation of voting rights advocates in the redistricting process is thus absolutely crucial in order to defend the hard-fought gains of the past and to ensure fair opportunities for equal participation.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is working throughout the country to advance fair redistricting. In North Carolina we are convening partners to build a North Carolina Coalition for Fair Redistricting and Voting Rights. For further information, please contact Bob Wing at 919-323-3380 or bob@scsj.org.