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What is redistricting and why is it important?

Most of our elected political representatives are sorted into voting districts. Redrawing the boundary lines for these districts is called redistricting . Redistricting happens after every decade’s U.S. Census to adjust the districts and make them roughly equal in population.

This decade’s redistricting will begins in August 2021 now that 2020 Census results have been delivered to the states. Using population counts, redistricting is how the U.S. divides up communities for the purposes of establishing what voting districts we live in, who represents us, and how those representatives will allocate resources for our communities.

The districts we draw this year will shape our lives and our communities for the next decade. We must mobilize massive participation in the process among the greatest possible number of people to pressure state and local electeds to draw fair districts, protect our communities of interest, and establish a clear record of community demands so that we can challenge any attempts to rig the process.

In order to have a fair and inclusive process, we are demanding these 8 things from our Legislature.

Who is in charge of redistricting?

Redistricting is not an automatic process — and varies from state to state.

In North Carolina, redistricting happens on the local, state, and federal levels — anywhere that candidates file and elections happen.

On the local level, town or city councils, boards of county commissioners, and boards of education draw their own districts, with the help of city or county attorneys (or sometimes outside attorneys or redistricting experts). The North Carolina General Assembly draws three districts: the North Carolina delegation to the US House of Representatives (otherwise known as Congressional Districts), and their own State Districts for the NC Senate & NC House.

Historically, North Carolina’s state and local governments have not always led a fair, open, timely, and transparent redistricting process, which makes community organizing and advocacy essential.

On Monday August 2, Democracy NC joined a coalition of North Carolina voting rights organizations to demand an open process for drawing the state’s legislative and Congressional districts, outlined in a redistricting recommendations letter emailed to state legislators.

The comprehensive letter describes how North Carolina can ensure a fair, inclusive, timely, and transparent process this redistricting cycle.

N.C. Redistricting Demands Letter

We call on the NCGA to ensure the 2021 redistricting process is fair, inclusive, timely, and transparent.

Public Hearings Demands Letter

We urge the NCGA to ensure NC'ians can meaningfully participate in public redistricting hearings.

What is Gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the deliberate drawing of districts in a way that maximizes the power of politicians. Gerrymandering may result in oddly-shaped districts designed to greatly increase or decrease a certain kind of voter (e.g., Black voters or Republican voters). Racial gerrymandering places voters in districts based on race. Partisan gerrymandering places voters in districts based on which party they have historically voted for, with a similar intent of reducing competition and benefiting one party.

When does redistricting happen?

Redistricting can begin when the US Census Bureau releases data gathered during the prior year’s Census. Because of delays in Census data caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, the Census Bureau will release a partial form of the data on August 12, 2021, and full data on September 30, 2021.

State and local governments can begin their redistricting processes after August 12. 

In North Carolina, the NC General Assembly will draw State and Congressional Districts before candidates file for the next elections, likely December 17, 2021. Under new guidelines laid out by the General Assembly, towns, cities, counties and school boards can draw their maps by November 17, 2021 or December 17, 2021. Public hearings seeking community input may be held on the local level before draft maps are drawn; and must be held after they are drawn and before they are passed.

Typically, the redistricting process follows the following stages:

  • Census data is released, including population changes and who lives where.
  • Maps are drafted based on the available data.
  • Public hearings about draft maps are held where community input is given.
  • Maps are approved by the relevant state and local governments.
  • The next elections are held using the  maps drawn during this process.

What is a Community of Interest? 

A community of interest is a neighborhood, community, or group of people who have common policy concerns and would benefit from being maintained in a single district. Another way of understanding a community of interest is that it is simply a way for a community to talk about what makes it unique when compared to surrounding communities, as defined by the local community members.

Why is a Community of Interest important?

Keeping communities of interest together is an important principle in redistricting. It can be especially helpful to communities that have been traditionally left out of the political process. Community members can define their communities by telling their stories and describing concerns to policy makers. Examples include community members working to repair their area after a natural disaster or a neighborhood organizing to have a high school built closer to them.

Tips for Submitting Public Comment

Quick tips for how to craft an effective written public comment about your Community of Interest.

When you’re ready, submit your written public comment here.

Join #MapOurFutures and make your voice heard!

In partnership with Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

In 2020 we came out in record numbers. We flooded the polls, the streets, and the airwaves to show that our communities could not be silenced. This year we have an opportunity to do something that won’t come around for another 10 years: reclaim our voice by demanding a fair and equal community districting process.

Let’s finish the job and demand the representation we deserve  — join us for the Map Our Future Tour coming to your community!

During this important event, you’ll learn how to use your voice to:

  • draw our own communities’ lines,
  • ensure fair resources for us and future generations, and
  • remind politicians that they work for us and not the other way around.

RSVP NOW and save your seat for this important community event in a town near you!

#MapOurFutures 2020 Census Data

#MapOurFutures Giving Effective Testimony

#MapOurFutures Winning Public Hearings

OUR FAIR MAPS FIGHT BEGAN YEARS AGO

On August 22, 2017, North Carolinians from all across the state made their voices heard against the dangers of gerrymandering. These are some of their stories.

Rev. Cardes Brown: "No Hope" Process Will Be Fair

Chair of the Greensboro NAACP, Rev. Cardes Brown shares that because lawmakers have a long history of gerrymandering voters, he has "no hope that this [latest round of districts] will come out in a way that is fair and represents the will of the people."

Janice Siebert: My Lawmakers "Don't Listen to Me."

Janice Siebert shares the "cost of gerrymandering" in heartfelt public comment during a local hearing in Jamestown, North Carolina. "My representative and Senator don't listen to me — because they don't have to," says Seibert.

Linda Sutton: "Voters are Sick and Tired"

Linda Sutton of Winston-Salem shares her displeasure with new legislative maps at a public hearing on redistricting in Jamestown, North Carolina. "The voters are sick and tired of being sick and tired of being disenfranchised," says Sutton.

Bob Hall: Process Has Been "Disrespectful"

Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall comments on the "disrespectful" public hearing process and shares a new report showing the true impact of partisan gerrymandering on 2017 legislative maps — and how current configurations create “an enormous Republican edge.”