Gerrymandering has long been a tale of the self-interested doing whatever they like, no matter what damage it does to democracy.
The recent, rising fight against gerrymandering has been a tale of ordinary people doing what they can to rescue the democracy they love from the trouble it's in.
Some encouraging news
The ordinary people, by dint of effort, pluck and creativity, are winning a few.
Here’s a list of promising reform efforts that can be credited to the rise of DIY democracy:
Ohio: Voters approved a ballot proposition setting up a new, multi-state process for creating congressional maps that would prevent any map from being approved without bipartisan support.
Michigan: The group Voters Not Politicians gathered nearly a half million valid signatures to put a redistricting reform proposal on the statewide ballot this fall. (2018)
Colorado: A voter-driven effort for a new, less-partisan redistricting commission passed both houses of the state legislature, setting up a ballot referendum this fall.
Virginia: A reform bill backed by the group OneVirginia2021 has passed several legislative hurdles in Richmond, but its fate remains up in the air as activists work to persuade lawmakers.
Maine: Not a redistricting result, but so encouraging it deserves mention: Voters re-ratified a “ranked-choice” voting system that the governor and legislature had nullified after the first time a grassroots effort got it approved by referendum.
Utah: Voters in November will consider a proposal to create a seven-member independent commission to handle redistricting.
Missouri: A well-funded campaign is underway to convince voters in November to reform the political process that determines the maps.
Crucible of redistricting reform
In Pennsylvania, the patron saint of efforts to combat gerrymandering is Amanda Holt.
Back in 2011, as a 29-year-old piano teacher living outside Allentown, Holt got an accidental glimpse into how blatant gerrymandering had become in her home state.
Instead of just shrugging or sighing, she responded with a stubborn: “No! This just isn’t right!” And she set out to do something to right the wrong. Despite high odds and condescension from the usual suspects, she persisted.
To learn more, watch this: Video: The Amanda Holt Story
Amanda Holt’s historic blow against gerrymandering in 2011 set the stage for the further progress achieved in 2018 by the Fair Districts Pa. movement, which galvanized more than 20,000 ordinary folks to march, work and lobby for reform. The effort got a constitutional amendment passed in the state Senate, though it faltered in the House.
Another dogged voice for change
It’s worth noting that Fair Districts is led by another stubbornly idealistic woman who was consistently dismissed by those who thought they knew better, Carol Kuniholm.
Whether the issue is gerrymandering, or ranked-choice voting, open primaries or campaign finance reform, 2018 has been the year of the DIY democratic reformer. (It’s been a lot of other chaotic and wrenching things, too, but we’re accentuating the positive here.)
Draw the Lines aims to be a place where DIY reformers can connect with and be inspired by people who share their ideals, their persistence, their stubborn belief in the power of one.
These are the Americans, people like Amanda Holt and Carol Kuniholm, who never stop trying to pull their beloved democracy out of the ditch into which the toxic partisans have driven it.
Draw the Lines exists for - and thanks to - them.