By: Sally Kim, Redistricting Project Coordinator
Every 10 years after the new Census data comes out, political boundaries from county to State Senate to U.S. Congress are redrawn to accommodate the new population count. The newly drawn electoral districts will impact who can be elected into office and what communities are represented by whom, and what communities are split up or kept together for the next decade. Sometimes redistricting is done behind closed doors and the public has no say in the process, often redistricting is done by the political party in power who redraw districts to favor themselves. Not a good day for democracy. This "gerrymandering," or drawing districts to favor certain candidates or political parties can result in a pre-determined win. Redistricting is sometimes done to exclude racial minorities, including Asian American voters. As noted in the film "Gerrymandering," that we watched on March 19th:
Kathay Feng of California Common Cause California, recalls when a local politician called her up during California's redistricting process. The politician said, "“‘Kathay, you’re not gonna put another effin’ Asian in my district,’" Kathay recalled.
"In San Francisco, by the way, one in three people are of some type of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, so you can’t move a block without putting another ‘effin’’ Asian in her district. It was that type of arrogance and, frankly, racism that drove me to ask the question, ‘Does this make sense for the incumbents to be drawing lines?’” asked Kathay.
The film argues that allowing legislators to draw voting districts means “politicians choose voters instead of the other way around.” Once an urban population has been sliced-and-diced to consolidate wealthy neighborhoods, ensnare partisan cores, or divide and disempower Asian, Hispanic or African American enclaves, “it really doesn’t matter who you vote for,” a seasoned political player observes (in the film). “The election outcome has already been determined.”
Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in Michigan, outpacing even the Latino and Hispanic population.
How do we make sure that the redrawing of the new districts are done in such a way as to protect our growing Asian American communities and keep us together as a community of interest, rather than be split apart? What does it mean to have fair redistricting? What would it look like to have organized communities, able to elect someone from our own neighborhoods and someone who has more in common with us and can more fairly represent us?
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