It is no secret that to many, presidential politics is the most important part of politics - and no doubt it is VERY important. However, many of the day-to-day issues that we experience in our lives are decided at the state level - things dealing with roads, schools, voting rights and more. In addition to legislating, the party in power gets to draw the lines for our maps every 10 years, after the census is taken. They’ll draw these maps again next year based on the new census. Since the federal Supreme Court just punted on the issue of gerrymandering, the stakes for who draws these maps has never been higher, and next year’s legislative elections have never been more important.
Take for example North Carolina, where the harmful effects of partisan gerrymandering are disenfranchising and limiting the voices of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians. While the majority may feel one way about an important issue, the opposite of their will could be reflected in the decisions coming from their state capitol. The will of the people is being subverted through a number of partisan gerrymandering tactics. The most common are referred to as cracking, stacking, and packing.
Cracking means distributing a group of voters across several districts to prevent them from forming a majority. Packing means concentrating as many like-minded voters into one district as possible to prevent them from affecting elections in other districts. Stacking occurs when low-income, less educated minority groups are grouped together to create a perceived voting majority but are placed in the same district as high-income, more educated white voters who turn out in greater numbers. (More details in this video from the ACLU.)
Next year, as the maps are redrawn again across the country, policy in some of our states will be enormously threatened for the next 10 years or more. While being aware of what is at stake is important as we head in to 2020, we need to be sure that we are not so focused on the presidential election that we disengage from what is happening within our states. I challenge you to not only pick - and work for - a presidential candidate of your choice in the coming year, but to get educated about what is happening on your state legislative level. All of us have unique talents, perspectives and networks that we can contribute to campaigns in our area. We can’t take our knowledge, talent and treasure to the grave - so we should offer ourselves in service as much as we can while we can.
You could be thinking that working on a campaign isn’t for you...but I again ask that you reflect on what you could add to a team. Maybe you can offer social media help to campaign as they are launching. Maybe you’re really great at making videos. Maybe you’re known for networking in your town, and you could help with fundraising. Whatever your “thing” is - whatever you know about - offer it in service to a state-level campaign in the coming year. If you don’t find candidates that you like on the ballot, maybe you could even run yourself. After all, that’s what I did.