It won’t happen for another three years, but the South Carolina League of Women Voters already is working on issues surrounding the redrawing of legislative and congressional district borders.
“We believe everyone’s vote should count, should matter,” Vice President for Issues and Action Lynn Teague said. “And in cases where districts are badly gerrymandered, votes are wasted. There’s no competition, so the voter really is, in a sense, disenfranchised.We’re working to do this on the legislative front and for that we need a lot of public support. We need the public to understand and become engaged and call their legislators and let them know they care about this.”
Teague said the LWV is working with several legislators on a bipartisan bill that would “redefine how this process works.”
“The bill that has been filed that we are supporting would have an independent commission draw the initial lines for the boundaries based on criteria that prohibit using — protecting a political party or protecting an incumbent,” Teague said.
“One of the problems in South Carolina is there’s no independent ability to get petitions and get something on the ballot by referendum” she said. “We must go through the General Assembly where the very incumbents are located and try to talk those incumbents into voting to change how this is done, to be less protective of their personal self-interests and that’s why the public matters so much.”
In order to get citizens to encourage their legislators to approve the bill, the LWV has speakers available to give presentations to any group who requests one, such as book clubs or rotary clubs.
“What we will be talking to people about is the importance of unbiased districts that are not drawn for the advantage of any party and they’re not drawn for the advantage of any incumbent but are drawn to give voters a reasonable choice and a chance to elect someone of their choosing,” she said.
The United States Consitution requires district boundaries be redrawn every 10 years. And although South Carolina’s population growth won’t earn it another House seat in after the 2020 Census, Teague says the composition of a population changes. For instance, Census Bureau projections anticipate Charleston surpassing Columbia as the state’s most populous city.
“We have some districts that are, what is called, ‘packed,’ in which like-minded voters are jammed into one district in order to keep things more homogenous,” she said.
“What we do at the Statehouse shapes everything and it ultimately affects how our Congress acts because it is at the Statehouse that congressional lines are finalized,” Teague said. “It’s really important that voters get in touch with their legislators. E-mail them. Call them. Write them. Send them a handwritten note to say, ‘I want better, less-biased redistricting that does not protect incumbents and does not protect political parties.'”