All votes are equal, but some are more equal than others. Especially if they are from rich, white Republicans.
Gerrymandering is dark art of drawing districting boundaries to neutralize votes for your opponent. Republicans use it to get elected even when they are in the minority. Redistricting happens every ten years and districts will be redrawn this year.
What can you do make vote matter? Make your voice by heard during redistricting process by drawing a map of your community, so it isn't split and your vote being made worthless.
How gerrymandering can make your vote worthless? What is a community? What apps and help is available in drawing and submitting a community map? Learn more about redistricting? That's what this blog covers.
Voter suppression by gerrymandering
Redistricting can split a community leaving people without a representative who feels responsible for their concerns. How the lines are drawn can change who controls the legislature, and which laws get passed. - Prof Justin Levitt
Redistricting criteria -PROF. JUSTIN LEVITT'S GUIDE TO DRAWING THE ELECTORAL LINES
Communities of interest
What is a community of interest map?
Communities of Interest (COI) maps help combat gerrymandering. A community is less likely to be split up in redistricting if it can identify itself on a map and show shared interests. This makes it easier for communities to elect officials that represent them.
"Many states requires consideration of “communities of interest” when redistricting lines are drawn. Members of local communities can assist those in charge of the process by mapping out the boundaries of local communities that should be kept together within a district. Community members can also show the most appropriate places where the community might be split if necessary. Members of the public can agree on the boundaries of their own communities of interest through community forums." - PROF. JUSTIN LEVITT'S GUIDE TO DRAWING THE ELECTORAL LINES
Drawing a community of interest map
State laws often require redistricting preserve “communities of interest” which is a group of people with a common interest that legislation might benefit. Kansas‘ 2002 guidelines offered a fairly typical definition: “[s]ocial, cultural, racial, ethnic, and economic interests common to the population of the area, which are probable subjects of legislation.” - All About Redistricting
How do you get started? Where do people with interests similar to you live in your community? We used the Community Analyst app for this project since it includes both demographic data and easy-to-use mapping tools. The apps costs non-profit groups about $100 and can be used to draw any number of maps. Find out about help available to draw a COI map (for the busy or technically challenged).
Consider Bentonville, AR home of Walmart with huge wealth disparities. "The Walmart family’s collective is over to $163.2 billion keeping them at the top of the Bloomberg’s world’s richest families list (Business Insider).
If you take into account the average size of a family on food stamps, as many as 7,000 individual Walmart employees were on food stamps last year—nearly 15 percent of the company’s workforce across Ohio." - Slate
Where do people at different levels of wealth (and poverty) live in Bentonville? Where are the poor communities of color? This information helps draw a community of interest. I've split this into three easy steps:
1. Select your search criteria (such as net worth)
2. Use several factors (such as race and poverty)
3. Draw your map and prepare report to share
Drawing a COI map
The first step is to choose the area you are interested in. Next I choose Net Worth as a criteria and look for families with a net worth over $2 million in Bentonville. Adjusting the slider on the left refreshes the map dynamically. In a few seconds I can see that 33% of the people living in Block Group 050070208.063 have a net worth over $2 million.
Community Analyst offers a wide range of data for you to precisely draw your Community of Interest Map. You can choose one or upto five different criteria, and adjust each variable individually. In this first step, I chose areas with families with a net worth over $ 2 million.
Focus your community of interest map with more factors
Next I search for areas with a high % of minority residents. Again, I adjust the slider on the left to focus in on the areas with the highest concentration. I then add poverty as a search criteria. It should come as no surprise that the same areas with a high minority population also have a high level of poverty.
Republicans use gerrymandering to divide the voting power of minority voters by splitting them across different voting districts. This effectively dilutes their voting power and the ability to elect people who will look after their interests.
Sharing your community of interest map
Next I drew a boundary around the community of interest and generate a report with the map and key facts. You'll notice that the average household income in this area is $33,263 and the net worth is $13,088.
How do you share your COI map?
Once you have a good idea of your community of interest, you can refine it further and share it with redistricting officials using free apps such as:
Representable - A free solution from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project
Districtr - A free app from the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG)
Also take a look at these excellent resources:
Dave's Redistricting App - A free-to-use, public software for drawing and analyzing state legislative and congressional district plans.
TakeAway: Don't let gerrymandering strip your vote of any power. Draw your own community of interest map so that it is taken into account during redistricting.
Image credit: LWV
Enjoy these two cartoons I found while working on this blog.