Voting

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has launched a national campaign aimed at ensuring a fair redistricting process after the 2020 census and chapters in Northwest Georgia are taking part.

A regional town hall is slated for Sept. 19 in Calhoun so voters can learn how the process works and what it means for their civic voices. It’s jointly sponsored by the LWV of Rome-Floyd and the LWV Dalton-Whitfield.

“It goes back to citizens choosing our elected officials and not our elected officials choosing their voter pool,” said Rebecca Moye of the Rome-Floyd chapter. “When you look at districts that are cut up into crazy shapes, how is that fair?”

The free public event – one of 14 scheduled around the state – is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Calhoun Depot, 109 S. King St. Moye said it would probably last an hour and a half to two hours.

The Marietta-Cobb chapter just announced its forum will be on Oct. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Kennesaw community center, 2753 Watts Drive. Roswell, Athens, Macon and Lawrenceville also have sessions coming up.

A major focus is on gerrymandering – the practice of manipulating voting district boundaries to favor a particular group of people. Racial gerrymandering is barred by federal law but the U.S. Supreme Court declined in June to weigh in on segregating voters by political leanings.

Moye said the ruling on partisan gerrymandering sparked the national LWV campaign.

“The Supreme Court decision not to mess with the states on how they run that process put the focus on the states. And each one is different,” she said. “Leagues in all 50 states have signed on to educate the public about theirs.”

Chris Carson, president of the LWV of the United States‘ board, said the organization has played a major role in establishing nonpartisan redistricting commissions in a several states.

“Because we have a presence in more than 750 communities, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the League is well positioned to lead this national conversation and seek to establish fair processes across the country,” Carson said in a Sept. 5 announcement.

The Georgia General Assembly draws the voting districts in this state and there’s a history of the majority party – Democrats and Republicans – trying to use the process to solidify its power.

Georgia advocacy groups created a coalition called the Georgia Redistricting Alliance, which aims to “encourage communities to reclaim their power” through fair redistricting. The town hall forum is one of their educational initiatives.

Moye said the Calhoun forum will feature a panel of experts including Mandy Maloney of Rome, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau. She’ll talk about how a complete count plays into the redistricting process.

Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis will give the local government perspective and the Dalton-Whitfield LWV is lining up a regional planner and a Republican legislator who’s been involved in redistricting.

There also will be a question-and-answer session and information about what residents can do to help develop fair voting districts.

“It’s nonpartisan,” Moye emphasized. “We want lots of perspectives in there.”

Each voting district in a state must have approximately the same number of people. Lines are redrawn every 10 years following the census, which will be conducted in 2020.

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, chairs the House Reapportionment Committee that will head up the process in 2021. Lumsden wasn’t in office in 2011 and the committee meets only when redistricting is on the table. He has said he expects to start hearings on the issues and options sometime next year.

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