What You Need to Know to Lobby for Redistricting Reform
Make sure you’ve signed our support pledge so we can let legislators know you want reform & to be notified when we have a specific bill to act on in 2019!
Refer to “The Legislative Process” page for details on how bills move - See Maryland Manual Online for More Guidance http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/proc.html
For a Video Guide visit http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmVideoTutorials.aspx
Who Do You Talk To?
Before a bill can go to the full senate or the full house, it must be introduced to and passed by a committee in either chamber (senate or house). Redistricting bills usually go to the Senate Education, Health & Environment Affairs Committee (EHEA) https://bit.ly/2NvReI4 and the House Rules Committee (HRU) https://bit.ly/2MVkI11 - so we start here. For the past 3 years redistricting bills have been killed in the House committee & have“died” in the Senate committee - meaning they didn’t even get a vote! So - first things first - we need people who live in the districts of these committee members to ask their legislators to pass - or even introduce - strong redistricting reform measures! Check out this link for an interactive legislative district map http://mdpgis.mdp.state.md.us/Legis_District/index.html. Learn where the districts are, and how crazy even legislative districts can be!
In our state, as in many others, what the Senate President and the Speaker of the House want to see passed (and what they want to see fail) have the greatest probability of happening. As senior members of their parties, other legislators look to them for guidance and defer to them in many cases in order to support their party’s goals overall. This is especially true regarding redistricting legislation in Maryland. So, in order to sway the MOST legislators to support a fair redistricting process, we need to convince our Senate President and our Speaker of the House that repairing this broken process is best for democracy and best for Maryland. They should not only support a fair redistricting process, but they should lead and act on good reform proposals.
LWVMD’s number one preference is to have elections maps - BOTH Congressional (federal level) & Legislative (state level) drawn by an independent citizens commission (not the politicians themselves!). For this, when the bill passes out of the committee, we need 60 percent of BOTH the senate and the house to vote in favor of our reform bill. So - we have to call, write, email, and show up EVEN MORE at this point. We need to make sure everyone contacts their legislator and lets them know that NOW is the time to act!
Now that you know how it works, and who to talk to, here are some suggested questions for elected officials regarding redistricting.
BUT FIRST: Don’t forget to review “Lobbying:How?” - those tips will help you to have an efficient & effective meeting.
AFTER: Please submit your meeting notes with us here so we can keep records for our reform efforts https://goo.gl/forms/3hVdtJpltBE7Nzt63
- Do you support an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw district maps? If not, why and what options for redistricting reform do you support?
What you need to know:
Potential Legislator Response: “Yes”
How to address: “Great - what are you planning to DO this session to pass a bill that makes this happen?”
Potential Legislator Response: “Yes, but I think we need to do this at the national level so that it balances in Congress” or some variation of this
How to address: “Given the gridlock in Congress, do you think it’s realistic to expect them to act on this issue? There are Marylanders whose votes do not count as much, or at all right now. As a state that champions voting rights, we need to change this urgently.”
Potential Legislator Response:“Yes, but I think we need to make a compact with other states so that we can all do this at the same time?” or some variation of this
How to address: “Maryland has a culture, makeup, and geographic shape that is unique to that of other states. Don’t you think that we deserve a redistricting process that suits are specific needs, rather than trying to make a one size fits all plan for several states?”
“Don’t you think that could take a very long time to actually enact if we have to wait on other states? In the meantime, aren’t we allowing our democracy to suffer by depriving certain Marylanders of the full power of their vote?”
Remind any legislator who suggests waiting that we don’t have time to wait! The next redistricting cycle will be triggered by the Census in 2020 - we need a solution BEFORE then, so we don’t end up stuck with gerrymandered maps for another decade!
- How will you promote a more transparent process for the development of district maps?
What you need to know: Make a note of what they say. Is it measurable? Will they state this plan publicly (in an op-ed, letter to the editor, public interview, etc.)? Will they introduce a bill that does this? Will they amend a bill that has already been introduced to do this?
- What opportunities will voters have to participate in the drawing of new district maps?
What you need to know: Public input is most effective on the outcome when it received BEFORE the maps have been drawn. Take note of what they think about this.
- How should computers and technology facilitate the creation of new maps? Should information such as voting patterns by party and homes of incumbents be part of of the data that is taken into account when drawing district lines? What should be considered?
What you need to know: There is software available now that would allow the public open access to the entire map drawing process, like DistrictBuidler http://www.districtbuilder.org/. What do they think about that?
- Will you work to support implementing Congressional (federal) district standards that require substantially equal population, geographic contiguity and geographic compactness so that the standards for drawing election districts for our members of the House or Representatives are the same as they are for our state legislators?
What you need to know: The legislative (state government) districts DO have requirements like these - The Maryland Constitution requires that state legislative districts be contiguous, compact, and "give 'due regard' for political boundaries and natural features." No such requirements apply to congressional districts.