The maps that will be drawn matter. They define whether or not Georgians have access to healthcare and high-quality public education. They decide whether we have an economy that uplifts all Georgians. They define and decide our families’ futures.
We cannot allow the 2021 redistricting cycle to unfold in the same way that it has in the past. As elected officials, we must set clear rules for ourselves before the map-drawing begins and provide for a fair and transparent process which ensures public participation.
Public participation is essential to drawing maps that accurately reflect and protect Georgia communities. Citizens must be able to both voice their concerns and receive honest and accurate information regarding why certain choices have been made.
I call on the leaders of the House and Senate to adopt rules for the Reapportionment Committees that will:
- Require that all proposed maps be available online within 48 hours, along with district-level demographic information.
- Ensure that legislative hearings to consider redistricting bills take place no sooner than two weeks after proposed maps are released to the public.
- Provide for a minimum of two public hearings in each metropolitan area of the state.
- Allow for virtual and remote participation in public hearings so that citizens from across the state have the opportunity to participate and provide testimony, no matter their employment or family circumstances.
- Stream all hearings live and post them online after the fact, so that the public can easily access and view the discussions that took place.
- Require the legislature to deliver written responses to public submissions and questions regarding proposed maps and the logic behind them.
These reforms would mark a dramatic departure from the current system, in which the maps that form the foundation of our democracy are drawn behind closed doors in the interests of partisanship and power above all else.
If we act now, we can ensure that we create a system in which our citizens can express their concerns and hold those in charge accountable for their actions. Democracy dictates that voters choose their elected representatives, not the other way around.
State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Decatur, is chairwoman of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus.