Taking back the power from politicians to draw their own districts

Taking back the power from politicians to draw their own districts
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The Supreme Court ruled recently that it had no business in dismantling partisan gerrymandering. In 1776, our nation declared we would be a country whose government would derive its power from the consent of the governed. The Supreme Court’s decision is a step away from that bold endeavor. It impacts every American citizen.

In most states, politicians have the power to draw their own districts, literally deciding who their voters will be. Doesn’t that sound like a conflict of interest?

It did to me. And it did to thousands of fellow Michiganders. In my home state, over 10,000 fellow fed-up Americans, in grassroots efforts, have been working since the November 2016 election to overturn rigged voting maps. Volunteers were Republicans, independents, and Democrats, and if there was one thing all agreed on, it was that we wanted a government which represented us fairly. Partisan gerrymandering places labels on every single one of us. It reduces us to numbers on a map, meant to ensure politicians’ reelections and their own party’s advantage. It incentivizes our elected officials to forget that we may just care more about our communities — our schools, our roads, water, and human services — than if Martha across the street is a Democrat or a Republican.

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Not only is this not right, it is destroying our faith in the democratic process.

Here’s the good news: One Facebook post can turn into thousands of volunteers, which can turn into hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, and millions of people voting to end the practice of gerrymandering — as it did in Michigan. In 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative amending the state's constitution to create a 13-member independent commission to redraw districts. 

Similar grassroots efforts in Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Utah were also successful at the ballot box. Americans across the country spoke out, petitioned, and voted for a fairer system. 

So, while this ruling is not ideal, it is one more reason for voters to get involved in the political process at the state level and stand up to politics as usual. Yes, there are 36 states where congressional boundaries are entirely drawn by legislators, but not all hope is lost. We can empower Americans interested in reforming government together to make the American people’s voices heard.  

People are tired of a government that does not see them. More often than not, their frustrations are not partisan — they are based on how our political system continues to ignore what should be its most important constituent — the people of our country. Democrats, Republicans and independents in all 50 states have decided even though they’ve never done something like this before, they’re committed to making a more representative country that represents our core American values. 

This is possible when there is focus on sharing best practices, words of advice, funding and a steadfast commitment to citizens leading these victories. We must make our voices heard by mobilizing one person, city, and state at a time to finally end gerrymandering, because right now, voting isn’t enough if we want a government derived for, by, and of the people. 

Kathryn Fahey is the executive director of The People, co-founded with DoSomething.orgs Andrew Shue and conservative pollster Frank Luntz. The People is an organization that is helping Americans drive change for a representative democracy. Fahey was previously the executive director of Voters Not Politicians in Michigan, where she led over 14,000 state-wide volunteers to organize and pass a ballot proposal resulting in changing the Michigan constitution to make political gerrymandering illegal.