Written by CAPA-JRC reporter Eileen Luo
On November 11, 2021, the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County (LWV MoCo) partnered with the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC) and the Chinese American Parents Association of Montgomery County (CAPA-MC) to spread awareness of Maryland redistricting. The hour-long event took place virtually, from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and was divided into three parts: background information, ways people can get involved, and question-and-answer (Q&A).
After an introduction by Ting Mei Chau (CAPA-MC president) and Chih-Hsiang Li, (CCACC executive director), Jackie Coolidge (co-chair of the redistricting team for LWV MoCo) launched into her presentation alongside Chau, who translated for the Chinese speakers in the audience.
CAPA-MC president Ting Mei Chau giving the introduction.
The presentation started off with the basics of the US Census.
“It was originally created to determine the population of each state, so the correct number of delegates in the House of Representatives could be apportioned to each state, [as well as] for taxes and spending,” said Coolidge.
It’s crucial that the lines are drawn to represent similar groups of people because, as Coolidge said, the people who represent our communities are key to “[our] success in obtaining the resources and policies needed to support [those] communities.”
Since 2012, however, Maryland’s districts have been gerrymandered in favor of Democrats. In fact, Maryland’s congressional and legislative districts are ranked among the worst in the nation.
Maryland’s current congressional districts.
“There are actually many elements that go into the process of redistricting, and we want that process to be fair,” said Coolidge. “There are some requirements that are legally required, there are others that are considered to be good practice.”
Among these requirements are: independent commissions, geographic compactness, substantially equal population, and representation of racial and linguistic minorities.
With regards to geographic compactness, however, Coolidge posed a question to the audience: “Does that look like what we have now?”
Fortunately, there has been more transparency regarding the redistricting process this time around. Two commissions have been created, each of which hold public meetings and take voters’ inputs.
There are two redistricting commissions: the Maryland Citizens Commission on Redistricting, created by Governor Hogan, and the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, created by the Maryland General Assembly. While the former commission consists of non-elected, non-lobbyist voters--three Republicans, three Democrats, and three unaligned--the latter is roughly representative of Maryland voter demographics: 4 Democrat, 2 Republican, and 1 nonpartisan political leader.
The purpose of these commissions is to select a map for submission to Governor Larry Hogan. “They will have to vote on the congressional maps [on December 6]... look at the maps for the state legislature during January, and… vote on the legislative maps in February next year,” said Coolidge.
But what use is knowing that information? Hence the next part of the presentation…
Ways to Get Involved
“You can certainly share your perspectives with your elected officials… by phone, by email, by sending a letter, or by asking for a meeting,” Coolidge said. “You can [also] attend meetings [with the relevant commissions] and sign up to testify [at those meetings].”
She also recommended working with an organization active in redistricting--LWV MoCo, for instance-- and “volunteer[ing] to advocate for fairness in redistricting.”
Jackie Coolidge speaking at the event.
Maryland’s redistricting efforts are an issue that affects all of Maryland. A representative who represents you in name only would likely have little reason to support you, your interests, and your community. As Coolidge said: “We think voters should be picking their representatives, and not the other way around.”
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 26 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.