Redistricting: Why You Should Care

VOTING IS IMPORTANT.

That’s right, I said it. Voting is important, and it is the fundamental quality that people should look for in a democracy like the one we have in this country. After many long-fought battles throughout our history, people over the age of eighteen now have the privilege to vote in our country’s elections, regardless of their gender, race or class. But even after this ridiculous hundreds-of-years battle, sometimes us younger folk take voting for granted. We might feel like our vote “won’t really change things"...or we may not even really understand how American democracy works at all!

Well, time to bust out your Schoolhouse Rock, kids, because WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT GERRYMANDERING and how it affects who gets elected, which therefore impacts our legislation...not only in our beautiful state but across our nation.

So, let’s do the Lin Manuel Miranda and hip-hop on back to our Founding Fathers.

Back in the day, we recognized that counting millions of American votes for presidential elections would take a crazy long time, so we came up with having an electoral college, or a group of delegates sent from each state to represent each state, as a whole, for the election. The Electoral College is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each state gets two senators, and a different number of representatives, depending on the overall population of the state.

Each representative is given a different section of a state, with the idea being that they were elected by a like-minded group of people, so they can represent their political viewpoints at a national level. Which makes sense, right? Although we don’t like to admit it, most states within the U.S are relatively sociologically segregated, especially through race and class. So each representative takes the majority vote from their little section of the state (or district), and votes for major legislation and elections accordingly.

BUT!!! There’s a loophole here!!! People with major political prowess are able to map out these districts and decide what these areas look like, not always based on ensuring the people that live in these areas are properly represented...but often, they can also arrange the map so the majority of people living in the district always favor the candidate of whichever party has power. This loophole is known as “gerrymandering”. Gerrymandering hurts both parties, since although one may be in power in one state, it may not be in another. This silences people within the state because they are incredibly misrepresented by the maps drawn with the intention of silencing their voice. Utah has four congressional districts, and these lil districts are gerrymandered up the wazoo.

In this picture, you can see that the more urban areas of Utah (particularly Salt Lake City) is completely split into the four districts in the center of it. That means that people in Ogden are also sharing their vote with people two hundred miles away, with people who may have a completely different social climate and political concerns than them.

Sure, voting in Utah may seem uncompetitive because of this whole being misrepresented thing...but what if there was something we could do to change it?

A foundation known as Better Boundaries is fighting to get our state redistricted, so that everyone can have the representation they deserve within our democracy, by getting a redistricting initiative on the 2018 ballot. But in order for them to get that on the ballot, they’re sending out a citizen petition that requires Utahns' signatures.

That means that if we, as students and young people, want to be represented in local and national politics, we are going to have to take initiative. And what better way to do that than to support a local organization whose goal is to ensure we are represented properly no matter what party we are affiliated with?

According to the Better Boundaries website, the initiative “...will modify the current system of redistricting by establishing an independent redistricting commission and prescribing redistricting standards and requirements.This improved system will reinforce our democracy by making our elected officials more accountable, increasing the competitiveness of our elections, reducing polarization, and strengthening voter participation and civic engagement.”

More information about redistricting and the Better Boundaries initiative can be found on their website, here.

We, as young people, are the voice of the future. So why shouldn’t our voices be heard? Let’s put an end to this gerrymandering bullshit. Let’s take a stand.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11