Hello! My name is Anna Martina, and this summer I interned with an organization called Citizen Redistricting North Carolina (CRNC). The primary purpose of CRNC is to advocate for redistricting reform that would change the current process for creating our state’s congressional and legislative districts. CRNC supports a state constitutional amendment to allow citizens to draw district maps using special software. The software would have North Carolina data loaded from the most recent census to provide population breakdowns as districts are drawn. After the individual submits a proposed map, the software would apply mathematical formulas to score it on three factors: compactness, adhering to the principle of “one person, one vote,” and minimizing the splitting of cities and counties into different districts. The highest scoring maps would be the ones actually used in our elections.
This summer I worked with a student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to research the history of gerrymandering in our state and the cost impact that continual redistricting litigation has had on North Carolina. We posted our research on a website for those interested in this issue. I was in charge of updating the site with information about the individuals working with CRNC as well as key redistricting developments in North Carolina. The purpose of our digital media effort was to connect with the citizens of North Carolina, educate them about this issue, and garner their support. After completing research on gerrymandering and redistricting, my partner Purshotam and I contacted every representative and senator in the North Carolina General Assembly, as well as candidates for these offices in the recent election to notify them of the work we were doing and ask for their support. This is when I learned the importance of patience, and persistence, for this type of work as initially it proved to be challenging to receive responses, let alone pledges of support. We also prepared draft letters to key legislators in anticipation of our reform being introduced in the next session of the General Assembly.
At the end of the summer, I came on as an advocacy co-chair for the Citizen Redistricting North Carolina board, a position I will serve in through the end of this school year. Throughout this past fall, I had the opportunity to further my research on this issue as well as work with the board president, Gary Cole, to target key legislators who could sponsor our legislation. Throughout this process, I learned the importance of contacting a variety of legislators when it comes to finding sponsors so that there will be a greater chance of gaining support. As our next challenge is getting a definite “yes” to introducing the proposed bill; this spring I will meet one on one with key potential sponsors. In preparing for the meetings with individual legislators, I have learned that it is critical to have both a wide and deep perspective on this issue. I’ve also learned that it is ok to say “no” if I don’t know the answer at that moment because I can follow up with legislators or their staff, if necessary.
Citizen Redistricting is looking for students interested in advocating for our reform, which would shift the power of drawing district maps away from politicians in favor of ordinary citizens. If what I am working on sounds interesting to you, feel free to learn more about Citizen Redistricting and how you may be able to help at https://www.citizenredistrictingnc.org.