Want your vote to count? Grab some popcorn and keep an eye on SC legislature

·4 min read

Redistricting and gerrymandering aren’t sexy.

No summer blockbusters or viral videos will highlight the drawing of legislative districts.

But if ensuring that South Carolina is divided into districts that allow all South Carolinians to have a voice in their government appeals to you, well then you’ll want to check out this hot new streaming service.

Starting Tuesday, the State Senate will host 10 public hearings across the state designed to give you an opportunity to learn about the process and speak up with your concerns and questions as the state determines the boundaries of the 46 state Senate districts, 124 state House districts and seven U.S. House districts.

Lynn Teague, Vice President for Issues and Action for the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, will be watching and her team will be using the hashtag #wearewatching to make sure legislators know it.

“Our ultimate concern is one of human nature,” Teague said, explaining that the league wants to make sure legislators are serving the public interest rather than their own private interests.

She wants South Carolinians to watch with her because redistricting “will determine whether your vote matters or not.”

The goal should be to design legislative districts without gerrymandering, defined by the Brennan Center for Justice as “the practice of drawing districts to favor one political party or racial group” that skews election results, “makes races less competitive, hurts communities of color, and thwarts the will of the voters.”

Teague said South Carolina’s districts are currently biased toward the majority party, adding, “On the whole, our maps are very non-competitive.”

So what is redistricting?

The State Senate offers this definition:

Redistricting means redrawing the boundaries of districts from which public officials are elected. Members of the United States House of Representatives, the South Carolina Senate, and the South Carolina House of Representatives are elected by voters who live in those districts. Federal law requires that a census of the population of the United States be taken every ten years. The final census data becomes available to the state the year after the census is completed.

The website All About Redistricting, hosted by Loyola Law School, adds that “redistricting is the way we change the districts that determine who represents us.”

It’s a process rooted in the U.S. Constitution, though the document does not specifically mention the term redistricting or the particulars of how the process works today.

The 2020 U.S. Census data used in redistricting will initially be released on Aug. 16 with more user-friendly versions of the same data expected to be released in September.

The data will include the population breakdown along with demographics including ethnicity, race and voting age at all levels of geography down to the block level, according to the U.S. Census.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, each state operates under certain criteria when making redistricting decisions with that data.

Traditionally that includes:

  • Compactness: Having the minimum distance between all the parts of a constituency (a circle, square or a hexagon is the most compact district).

  • Contiguity: All parts of a district being connected at some point with the rest of the district.

  • Preservation of counties and other political subdivisions: This refers to not crossing county, city, or town, boundaries when drawing districts.

  • Preservation of communities of interest: Geographical areas, such as neighborhoods of a city or regions of a state, where the residents have common political interests that do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of a political subdivision, such as a city or county.

  • Preservation of cores of prior districts: This refers to maintaining districts as previously drawn, to the extent possible. This leads to continuity of representation.

  • Avoiding pairing incumbents: This refers to avoiding districts that would create contests between incumbents.

South Carolina will take the data and determine what districts you live in based on the criteria it has adopted.

Again, it’s not terribly exciting in the short term, but the long-term results will determine who is elected and the future of your towns, counties and state.

You can watch the hearings online or stop by one of the hearings when it comes to your part of the state. Either way, we ask you to pay attention.

“Legislators need to know we appreciate all their great work, but we’re going to be keeping an eye on them,” Teague said.

So, break out the popcorn, click on the Legislature’s website starting tomorrow night at 6:30 , share your thoughts with the #wearewatching hashtag on social media, and enjoy (and participate in) the show.

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