Redistricting & The Courts: Messaging Tips On The Role of Courts in Fair Districting

Aug 10, 2021

Redistricting & The Courts: Messaging Tips On The Role of Courts in Fair Districting

On Thursday, Aug. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau will release the first local-level data from the 2020 Census -- data that states will use for drawing new Congressional and legislative district lines. With the release of this data, the once-a-decade process of creating new district maps will begin in earnest, with huge political and policy implications for the next 10 years.

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal courts cannot overturn maps drawn for partisan political advantage, and to date, the anti-gerrymandering provisions in the For the People Act have yet to become law. Therefore, state courts will play an essential check-and-balance role in the redistricting process. In short -- fair courts ensure fair districts.

This memo will provide Fair Courts advocates with the latest, data-backed messaging guidance on redistricting, as well as strategies to shine light on the importance of the courts in the redistricting process. You’ll also find below a short news release template, which can be used to generate coverage in your local or state publications, along with additional reading and other resources.

TOPLINE MESSAGING ON FAIR DISTRICTS

The folks at FrameShift, ASO Communications, and Jennifer Green have prepared a messaging guide, “We Draw the Line: Animating Engagement on Community Districting,” to provide research-backed frames and language when communicating on these issues.

The messaging guide encourages advocates to connect districting to real-world impacts on people’s lives and to use a positive, inspirational tone. It also discourages the use of terms like “gerrymandering” and “redistricting,” which are not widely understood by many Americans.

Here are some further takeaways from the messaging guide:

  • Fair districting affects us all 

Fair districting, or community districting, comes once every ten years and is of critical importance to our communities. More than just electoral maps, these new districts determine the allocation of funding for schools, hospitals, public transport, and other essential services. A fair districting process is necessary to guarantee that communities in our states receive the resources they need in a just and equitable manner.

  • Voters should choose their leaders, not the other way around

No matter our color, background, or zip code, we can all agree that voters pick our leaders, our leaders should not pick their voters. To preserve a fair and open democracy, we must ensure that every voter and every community is given an equal voice. Lawmakers should not be allowed to rig the process in their own favor for the next decade. This process, known as gerrymandering, is better described as politicians carving up our communities, dividing our neighborhoods, or silencing certain voices for their own political gain.

  • Additional talking points

    • Fair districting sets the foundation for the next ten years. 

    • The districts we draw this year will shape our lives and our communities for the next decade.

    • When we draw the map, we choose what hospitals, schools and resources are funded in our neighborhood.

    • A handful of politicians have divided us into districts that serve their political interests instead of our communities’ needs.

    • By joining together to speak out for fair districting, we can make our communities whole and deliver what our schools and families need for a decade to come. 

    • No matter what we look like or where we come from, when it comes to having a say over who represents us, most of us want similar things. We want a transparent process we can trust, where communities remain whole and where voters have an equal voice.

CONNECTING COURTS TO COMMUNITY DISTRICTING

The following points summarize key messaging points around fair districting and the courts. 

  • Fair courts are essential to having fair maps

Judges are the referees tasked with implementing the rules of a game fairly and impartially. No one -- not the players, fans, or coaches -- would be able to trust the final score if they believed the referees were biased. Our state courts will be the final arbiters of what’s fair play and what isn’t when it comes to community districting. As such, the only way to guarantee fair electoral maps is to have fair and impartial judges, free from partisan influence and prioritizing processes laid out in their respective state’s constitution. 

  • Fair courts, not lawmakers, are our best hope for fair voting maps

Politicians in states across the country have worked to rig elections in their favor, drawing districts in such a way that prioritizes their partisan ambitions over the needs of their constituents. That’s why fair courts are our best hope for fair voting maps. Our judges should be removed from the political fray, focusing solely on the rules of the fair districting process laid out in their state’s constitution. 

  •  Additional talking points

    • Our communities understand the importance of having an impartial body oversee the drawing of fair districts. That’s why having fair and impartial judges matters.

    • Judges shouldn’t be politicians. Their job is to ensure a fair districting process without concern for partisan advantage.

    • When partisan politics become the focus of community districting, it’s our communities that lose out. Fair and impartial courts are critical to guarantee a districting process we can believe in.

NEWS RELEASE TEMPLATE

Prepping a news release is easy with this template. Make sure to personalize for your own state and audience.

AS CENSUS BUREAU RELEASES REDISTRICTING DATA, *YOUR ORGANIZATION HERE* HIGHLIGHTS ROLE OF FAIR COURTS IN ENSURING FAIR DISTRICTS

DATELINE -- With the U.S. Census Bureau set to release local-level data today and the once-a-decade redistricting process begins, *your organization here* is emphasizing the key role fair and impartial courts will play in the process, serving as a bulwark against efforts from lawmakers looking to divide neighborhoods and silence certain voices for their own political gain.

“In *your state here*, we’re proud of the fact that voters pick their leaders and not the other way around. And it’s up to our courts to keep those leaders honest when it comes to drawing community district maps,” said *your name and title here*. “Without fair and impartial judges, our state can’t count on having fair maps.

“Every *demonym for your state* should be aware of how important fair districting is for our communities as well as how important courts are to the fair districting process. Fair districts affect all of us. They determine how we elect our leaders as well as the allocation of funding for essential services like hospitals, schools, and public transportation.“


RESOURCES

 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Inclusive Democracy team at ReThink Media for additional support and assistance:

Manuel Madrid -- Senior Communications Associate -- [email protected]

Kirstin Alvanitakis -- Program Director -- [email protected] 

 

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