Help Identify Community Groups to Participate in Redistricting Map Drawing
The League of Women Voters of Nebraska is part of People Powered Fair Maps™, a national redistricting program of the League of Women Voters that is focused on creating fair political maps across the United States. We are actively working to support the creation of a redistricting process that is fair and unbiased – a people-powered process to eliminate partisan and racial gerrymandering – during 2021 when states, including Nebraska, will redraw lines for state and local voting districts based on 2020 U.S. Census data.
As part of this process, Common Cause will lead group sessions in Nebraska and other states to identify communities of interest (the neighborhood you recognize as yours) to engage the public in the creation of district maps. In addition to defining such communities, these group sessions will provide training for those who would like to participate in a map-drawing experience. Common Cause will assist community groups using the software program DistrictR. (Learn more about DistrictR.).
We are asking LWVNE members to help identify and invite groups such as neighborhood associations, focus groups, church groups and others to co-sponsor DistrictR Community Line Design meetings. Our members would not have to lead the meetings or do the mapping, unless they wish to do so, but would help to facilitate discussion. Ideally, the group would include 10 to 15 participants and be scheduled to take place virtually (e.g., using Zoom).
As Common Cause wants to start holding these meetings in January 2021, please send your suggestions promptly to email@example.com for groups you wish to involve in this experience.
“We can provide more information on recruiting and arranging a Zoom session to define communities of interest,” said Sheri St. Clair, government director for the LWVNE and chair of its Fair Maps Committee. “This community mapping project lets legislators know that when they redraw the maps, the public is watching.”
Much is at stake when state and local voting districts are redefined, she added. “The numbers of senior citizens, those living in poverty and rural populations directly affect federal dollars returned to the state. As populations shift, growing in one area, declining in others, communities could lose federal funding for Medicaid, direct student loans, highway construction grants and more.”
Politically, Nebraskans may also lose representation in some areas if the population declines, possibly seeing a shift to urban areas. Elections for city councils, county boards, Natural Resources Districts, state legislative districts and others are influenced by the boundaries drawn. “Many voters have seen their votes minimized and hijacked by politicians who draw the lines to favor themselves,” St. Clair said.
When redrawing district lines, legislators consider both federal and state constitutional requirements which can result in district lines that may have been geographically distorted and not reflective of communities of interest. Several redistricting criteria — such as following county or municipal lines or drawing districts that are compact — are in some ways proxies for finding communities of common interest. These are groups of individuals who are likely to have similar legislative concerns, and who might therefore benefit from cohesive representation in the Legislature. Read more about communities of interest in redistricting.
The LWVNE website also includes information on redistricting, including this crash course.
The Center for Public Affairs Research, a research and community outreach unit in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service also provides information to facilitate an evidence-based approach to governance in Nebraska. Some ongoing projects include policy analyses for the Planning Committee of the Nebraska state Legislature and designation as the lead agency of the Nebraska state data program by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Nebraska Rural Transit Project with the Nebraska Department of Transportation. Nebraska’s response rate to the U.S. Census, which finished 4th was 71.9%.
The LWVNE Fair Maps Committee thanks members for their attention to and participation in the redistricting process in Nebraska.
Sheri St. Clair, chair; Carol Dennison; Sherry Miller; MaryLee Moulton; Susan Prazan; and Linda Duckworth, co-president of the LWVNE
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