They denounce lack of transparency and public participation in the drawing of electoral maps

Community voices are not heard for map design. (Getty Images)

Photo: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images

As Georgia state legislators near the end of electoral mapping, voting rights organizations have sounded the alarm about continued attacks on communities of color through redistricting.

We are very concerned about the lack of transparency and opportunity that the public had to assert their voice in the local maps that will impact them in the next decade”said Poy Winichakul, a voting rights attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

During the video conference: “All Redistricting Is Local: Activists Push Back As Georgia State Lawmakers Draw Maps That Diminish Voices Of Communities Of Color,” Hosted By Ethnic Media Services and Southern Poverty Law Center and Southern Coalition for Social Justiceadvocates spoke of efforts to engage communities in the fight for fair election maps.

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Fair electoral mapping is critical to democracy, experts say. (Getty Images)

Susannah Scott, president of the League of Women Voters of Georgia and moderator of the panel, said a fair and transparent redistricting process is critical to a good democracy.

“When voters have faith in the redesign process and believe it has been done fairly, they feel more involved in the political process and have faith in the government they help elect.”.

Aunna Dennis, director of Common Cause Georgia, said democracy can only work if all communities are equally represented, regardless of party affiliation and zip code.

However, he pointed out that the attacks on the right to vote have not stopped with the electoral ballot, but that they are advancing in the redistricting process.

"State legislators want to control our communities from our kitchen table to our garbage collection and how our representatives are selected."

He said that they really want to tell the rest of the country that this has to stop, and that they need change in particular in Georgia, because they are not covered by the different sections of the voting rights law as it is now.

We need federal and state protections; and a legislature that really works for the community, the people and not their special interests”.

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Fair districts allow you to have a voice in schools. (Getty Images)

Laura Judge, a Cobb County resident and parent who testified in the state legislature against discriminatory attacks, said the only way to ensure that the commissioners and the school board do what is best for the community is through fair districts that represent the voters.

But he also said they must have a voice in communities and schools.

“I strongly urge Georgians to stand up to this attempt to diminish our voice by staying involved and active.”.

He noted that every time they go to the School Board to have their voices heard, they hit a wall.

"They don't respond to public testimony and they refuse to listen to the community, while the state legislature is in a rush to get the maps done."

And he denounced that children have been forced to live in toxic environments because parents have no voice.

“We feel that the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are not being addressed at all as we continue to pay taxes and see our money being wasted on the School Board.”

Maariya Sheikh, a young Muslim-American resident of Cobb County, said they are the future, and the future is a multiracial and diverse democracy.

“Drawing maps that stifle local control and silence communities of color is a threat to the future.”

He added that redistricting determines whether people get civil rights protections or fully funded schools, and wherever they live, they deserve to choose their leaders, rather than be chosen by them.

Despite efforts by politicians in the state legislature to diminish their voices, activists in Georgia communities have pledged to continue advocating for fair representation”.

Despite the population growth of Latinos, it is not reflected in the new maps. (The Press)

Student Sadie McIntyre said that for months they have been organizing with the Georgian Youth for Justice to have fair maps.

“We have worked alongside parents, community members, advocates and voters from every county because this is not just about an election this year but about the future that we as students are going to inherit.”

And he added that they have built strong coalitions to share their stories and inform voters.

“We know that politicians have not done what is necessary to engage the community in a critical process that occurs every decade. So we want to make sure they have the information about the impact of the maps.”

Hundreds of new local redistricting maps, to be ready for the 2022 election, are currently awaiting the Governor's signature in the state of Georgia.

The presentation of candidates for the primary elections of 2022 in that southern state of the country begins on March 7.

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