Dr. Matt Saltzman

The practice of drawing U. S. Congressional and state legislative district lines to benefit one party over another is known as “partisan gerrymandering” and dates back to the 19th century.

Today, state legislatures across the country re-draw voting district lines every 10 years based on the population counts from the U. S. Census, which is the government count of all people residing in the United States.

In 2021, South Carolina state legislators will again take on the responsibility of having new maps drawn for our voting districts, including our state legislature (Senate and House of Representatives) as well as the seven U.S. Congressional Districts. The drawing of these district lines will affect the power of individual voters for the next 10 years (2021-2031).

Currently, this task is undertaken behind closed doors with no public input or oversight, making it possible for the party in power at the state level to draw the voting district lines in their favor.

One way to improve this process is to establish, through legislation, a bi-partisan independent redistricting commission that includes clear criteria for the selection of district boundaries.

The need for reasonable and clear criteria governing the selection of voting district boundaries, written into South Carolina law, can have far reaching impact on our entire political process at both the state and national levels of government.

Dr. Patricia Felton-Montgomery, president of the League of Women Voters of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area, said, “The reality is, if we don’t have fair redistricting maps after the 2020 census, then progress, on so many of the issues that the majority of Americans care about, will not be made.” She went on to reiterate what many others have said, that voters should elect their representatives; representatives should not be picking their voters.

On Nov. 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., at the Bluffton Branch Library, the League of Women Voters of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area will hold a forum on legislative redistricting and gerrymandering. The focus of the forum is on efforts citizens can make here in the Lowcountry to help create equitable and fair voting districts now, before the redistricting process begins in 2021.

Guest speaker for the event is Dr. Matt Saltzman, Clemson University associate professor of mathmatical and statistical sciences and director of the South Carolina League of Women Voters for redistricting.

This forum is free and open to the public.

For more information about the event, contact Dr. MaryAnn Bromley, state issues and advocacy chair, League of Women Voters of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area, at mary.ann.bromley@gmail.com or by phone or text at 843-298-2320.