After the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats took over the House, but not without some strife at the ballot box. Voters across the country had issues at the polls, sometimes waiting for hours to cast their ballots. Some activists argued restrictive voter ID laws were suppressing the vote from marginalized communities, and many districts are gerrymandered to ensure votes from one party, not to represent a community. During the 2020 primaries, we’ve seen many of the same hurdles to voting—all exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in 2018, Robin E. Best, associate professor of political science at Binghamton University said, “Most efforts now should be devoted to the 2020 election. District lines will need to be redrawn after the 2020 census, and who is in charge of drawing those districts will be crucially important for the future of partisan gerrymandering.” (If you haven’t filled out your census yet, learn more here.)
If you want to take action, you can support organizations fighting these two key issues: voter suppression and gerrymandering. Here’s what to know.
What to Do About Partisan Gerrymandering
It’s the job of the states to draw their districts, whether they’re for U.S. Congress or for state legislatures. The states redo this process periodically in a process called redistricting. But those district lines can look pretty suspect depending on which party is in power. Sometimes, in a process called gerrymandering, districts can be drawn in a way that doesn’t represent specific communities, but rather solidifies a district to more reliably vote for one party over the other.
Though in many states, legislatures are responsible for drawing districts, other states leave it up to separate, bipartisan commissions, either made up of citizens or officials. In 2018, ballot propositions were approved in Michigan and Colorado that moved redistricting to such independent commissions.
Some organizations say separate commissions are the only way to ensure constituents are fairly represented during redistricting. Here's how to support the cause.
- Common Cause, a nonpartisan grassroots organization, works on various issues, from ethics in government to voting rights and gerrymandering. Common Cause is seeking both volunteers and donations, and encourages people to tell their senators to support the For The People Act, “a bold, comprehensive package of democracy reforms including: independent redistricting commissions, citizen-funded elections, closing the revolving door between government and corporate interests, and protecting voters against discrimination.”
- FairVote, another nonpartisan organization, fights for proportional representation, along with other issues like a popular vote plan for presidential elections and a plan to vote by ranking your choices. They are advocating for the passing of a bill, the Fair Representation Act, which would affect U.S. House races. They are seeking donations, volunteers, and letter-writers.
- The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group, fights partisan gerrymandering and also focuses on issues like voting rights and campaign finance through litigation and public education. You can learn more about their recent cases and actions here, and if you’d like to help their team of lawyers, you can donate through their website.
- The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute, is fighting for independent commissions to be in charge of drawing districts and to ensure a fair and accurate census. Find out more about their work here. You can also donate or, if you work at a law firm, look into partnering and providing pro bono assistance.
And again, make sure to fill out your 2020 census and encourage your friends and family to do the same. The results of the 2020 census—plus who we vote into local office in November—will affect how these voting districts are drawn for the next 10 years.
What to Do About Voter Suppression
Many activists say politicians, especially at the state level, have placed intentional barriers around voters’ rights, with a particular emphasis on voters of color. Those barriers include strict voter ID laws, restrictions in voting hours, locations of polling places, and purging voters from rolls—not to mention how COVID-19 has contributed to limited polling places and longer wait times. A number of organizations fight for voting rights, and here’s how you can help them.
- The League of Women Voters, established in 1920, is a nonpartisan activist group that fights for voting rights across the country. They support expanding voter access, fighting voter suppression, and other issues like redistricting and money in politics. If you want to assist them, you can contact your senator or representative and urge them to support the issues they fight for, like automatic voter registration and expanding early voting, or you can also donate to their cause.
- The American Civil Liberties Union, among its many causes and issues they back, engages in legal cases and activism against voter suppression, including specifically suppression of Native American voters. To take action with the ACLU, you can send messages to your state officials about important issues, or donate.
- Election Protection is a national, nonpartisan group that gives information and help at all stages of voting, from registering to casting a vote. They run a hotline for anyone who has issues at the polls during an election. If you’d like to help, you can sign up to provide legal assistance or poll monitoring, or make a donation through the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
- Fair Fight is a national voter rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate. For 2020, Fair Fight is working to build voter protection teams. If you’d like to support Fair Fight’s work, you can donate or sign up to get involved in their protection efforts.
- The Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus is a legal and civil rights organization serving Asian and Pacific Islander communities. As part of their work, Advancing Justice – ALC focuses on voting rights and the census, including sponsoring state legislation that expands the availability of translated voting materials and operating poll monitoring programs. If you want to help, you can donate or sign up to volunteer.
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