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GEORGIA REDISTRICTING ALLIANCE DEMANDS MEANINGFUL PUBLIC INPUT TO THE REDISTRICTING PROCESS

GEORGIA REDISTRICTING ALLIANCE DEMANDS MEANINGFUL PUBLIC INPUT TO THE REDISTRICTING PROCESS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 9, 2021

CONTACT INFORMATION

Karuna Ramachandran

404.585.8446 x 106

kramachandran@advancingjustice-atlanta.org

ATLANTA, GA —  Both Georgia’s Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee and its House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee have announced that they will have a joint meeting on Tuesday, June 15, at 5:00 p.m. in Room 341 CAP, officially launching the state’s redistricting process. According to the announcement, the meeting will be available to the public via livestream.

While Georgians can sign up to provide comments at the meeting, the redistricting committees have failed to respond to advocates’ requests for transparency in the map drawing and approval process. Notably, the committees have not provided access to draft maps for public input, and there are still fundamental language access gaps, making it harder for residents who do not speak English or use English as their first language to participate in the process. In light of some of these challenges, members of the Georgia Redistricting Alliance are adamant that additional steps be taken to improve access to this process.

“Georgians are able to give input at the town halls planned by the joint redistricting committees of the Georgia Legislature,” said Helen Butler, Executive Director of Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. “However it is unclear what the redistricting committees will do with the input they receive at these town halls. It is also unclear whether or not Georgians will have any opportunity to review mapping proposals before they are voted on by legislators. This is entirely unacceptable and we demand details about the actual process of redrawing district lines in Georgia.”

Gigi Pedraza, Executive Director of Latino Community Fund, Georgia agreed, noting that, “Redistricting is far too important to be conducted behind closed doors. These public town halls appear to be an attempt to check a box for public accountability without having a meaningful impact on the process. We cannot afford to be left out of this process that will impact our lives over the next 10 years.”

Advocates are on high alert in light of the challenging election season Georgians experienced during the General and U.S. Senate runoff elections. LaVita Tuff, Policy Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta emphasized that, “the last year of elections has proved that Georgians want to be actively engaged in the political process. The Georgia legislature‘s proposed town halls, with their ‘English-only’ policies, are by no means accessible or inclusive. We demand that the redistricting process incorporates meaningful language access, so that all Georgians can participate.”

Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of Georgia Association for Latino Elected Officials also noted, “the Georgia legislature is holding public town halls across the state. However Georgians have received no concrete information about the redistricting special session that is rumored to be held this year. How can Georgians effectively give input on a process for which they do not have the full details? We demand and expect more meaningful integration of our community’s input.”

“Voters showed that they want to be engaged in the democratic process by turning out in record numbers in 2020 and early 2021,” said John Moye, Director – Policy & Legislative Affairs, Urban League of Greater Georgia. “In follow up interviews, our constituents said they selected candidates they believed would stand up for their families, values, needs, priorities, and justice. Clearly, voters want their voices heard, and redistricting will either amplify or silence their voices. We must allow citizen input as redistricting decisions are made.”

Wan R. Smith, Organizing Director of Georgia Conservation Voters stated, “We are not fooled by performance politics. The Georgia legislature’s public town halls are futile because without insight to the redistricting process and draft maps citizens will not be able to ask the right questions, provide meaningful feedback or make recommendations.”

Jewel Howard, Lead Organizer of 9to5, National Organization for Working Women stated, “Transparency in the map drawing and approval process is a way to make sure the plans are fair and provide communities with the full representation that every Georgia resident deserves.”

Phyllis Richardson, Governmental Affairs Director, Georgia WAND Education Fund stated, “The purpose of redistricting or redrawing the lines based on the information received from the census is designed to benefit the people and the communities they live in.  So, Georgia Legislators, how can you have a process that affects the resources, finances and green space of a community or have fair representation if the people of the community do not have a seat or place at the table of decisions? Therefore, the residents of Georgia deserve to have the right to participate in the redistricting process and the viewing of maps prior to any decision being made.”

April England-Albright, Legal Director of Black Voters Matter Fund, stated, “ In light of the opaque and  sometimes deceptive process that was recently used by the Georgia legislature to pass of one of the country’s most restrictive voter suppression bills, transparency throughout the redistricting process is more important than ever.  Hosting public town halls, without access to the draft maps for public input, does not equal transparency.  We demand that the redistricting committees fully disclose the redistricting process to all Georgians, and it should be communicated in ways accessible to all communities.

“Georgians deserve, and are entitled to, a fair and transparent redistricting process,” said Susannah Scott, president of the League of Women Voters of Georgia. “Without proposed draft maps for the public to provide input on, or a clear process for how the comments shared in the upcoming town halls will be utilized, there is no real transparency for Georgians. Without transparency, there is no guarantee of a fair process. The Georgia legislature can and must do better for the citizens it serves.”

Aunna Dennis, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia, said:

“Common Cause Georgia urges our legislators to go beyond a ‘road show’ series of hearings, and to craft a process that truly empowers peoples’ voices to be heard. Redistricting should be about fairness and ensuring that all of us can have a voice in the decisions that affect our lives. Now, it is even more critical to be transparent and inclusive to bring Georgians together.”

Kayla Kane, Data and Research Analyst at Southern Poverty Law Center, stated:

“By their record turnout in recent elections, Georgia voters have shown that they want to be involved in the political process. However, the Georgia legislature’s lack of transparency on the timing of these redistricting town halls have made it nearly impossible for the average voter to follow the process. A fair districting process that represents communities equitably requires transparency so that politicians aren’t choosing their voters behind closed doors. Georgia residents deserve an open and fully transparent process. Anything less than full transparency quickens Georgia’s move away from a democracy that works for everyone.”

“We are committed to ensuring that community members understand they are constituents of the elected officials, and elected officials should work to represent the interests of their constituents,” said Deborah Scott, Executive Director for Georgia STAND-UP. “Drawing fair and equitable districts is necessary for equitable distribution of resources and representation. Georgia Stand-Up is committed to work with communities and our coalition partners to ensure fair elections that support.”

ABOUT THE GEORGIA REDISTRICTING ALLIANCE

The Georgia Redistricting Alliance (GRA) is a coalition of organizations who believe that queer/trans BIPOC community should be at the forefront of the fight to protect our voting power and are preparing OUR communities to lead redistricting in 2021 and 2022. To learn more about GRA and our member organizations, please visit garedistrictingalliance.org.