Georgia Activists Fight for Transparency and Equity in Local Redistricting
Across the region, Southerners are ringing the alarm about persistent attacks on communities of color during the redistricting process. In Georgia, state lawmakers stand out for their egregious tactic to pass partisan power grabs over the needs of local communities. During a media briefing yesterday hosted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Ethnic Media Services, just hours after passage of additional maps in Cobb County, activists and organizers from the Georgia Redistricting Alliance, Common Cause Georgia, League of Women Voters of Georgia, and Georgia Youth Justice Coalition detailed their efforts to engage communities across the state in the fight for fair voting maps determining political representation and access to resources over the next ten years.
A recording of the Media Briefing in English can be viewed HERE. We will add recordings in the briefing’s additional languages as soon as possible.
Susannah Scott, President of the League of Women Voters of Georgia and moderator for today’s briefing, started by noting, “A fair and transparent redistricting process is fundamental to good democracy. When voters have faith in the redistricting process and believe it has been conducted fairly, they feel more engaged in the political process and have faith in the government that they help elect.”
Next, President Scott introduced Poy Winichakul, Staff Attorney for Voting Rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a key figure in the statewide legal fight for voting access and fair representation. Ms. Winichakul spoke to the state legislature’s dizzying timeline, stating, “We’re very concerned about how fast things are moving, and how little the public has had a chance to weigh in on local maps that impact them for the next decade…especially during Georgia’s first redistricting cycle without the protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Aunna Dennis, Executive Director at Common Cause Georgia, spoke from her experience combining social impact, culture, grassroots organizing, policy, and elections. Dennis tied together the interconnected issues Georgians face with unfair redistricting: “Attacks on our right to vote hasn’t stopped with our ballot box — it’s playing out in our local redistricting process. State legislators want to control our communities from our kitchen table, to our trash pickup, and to how our local representatives are chosen.”
Members of the media heard next from Laura Judge, a voter in Cobb County and parent of students that attended Cobb County Schools. During the local redistricting process, Mrs. Judge testified against the state legislature’s discriminatory attacks on her voting districts. “The only way to ensure our commissioners and school board do what’s best for our community is through fair districts that actually represent the voters and give us a say in our schools and communities. I strongly urge all Georgians to stand up to this attempt to diminish our voice by staying involved and staying active.”
The briefing closed with powerful testimony from Georgia Youth Justice Coalition members Maariya Sheikh and Sadie McIntyre. Maariya, a Muslim American resident of Cobb County, stated unequivocally that “We are the future, and the future is a diverse, multiracial democracy — drawing maps that suppress local control and silence communities of color is a threat to that future.” Sadie, representing young people from Cobb, Gwinnett, and Athens-Clarke County, made clear that redistricting determined whether people received civil rights protections or fully funded schools, and that whether you live in “Powder Springs, Athens, or Lawrenceville, you deserve to choose your leaders instead of them choosing you.”
Despite the efforts by politicians in the state legislature to diminish their voices, activists in communities across Georgia have vowed to continue advocating for fair representation. Hundreds of new local redistricting maps, which will be in place for the 2022 elections, are currently awaiting the Governor’s signature. Candidate filing for the 2022 primary election in Georgia begins on March 7.