The history of Texas is rife with systemic racism and gerrymandering, the drawing of district lines to disenfranchise voters. Preserving communities of interest and ensuring fair representation in electoral maps is central to our democracy. The public should have a say in who represents them. Through an open and fair redistricting process, we can ensure communities of color and marginalized communities influence the elected officials who make the policy decisions that shape their lives.
Although redistricting impacts all levels of government, Houston in Action will prioritize the local level of government. County precinct boundaries must reflect real communities and their interests. Ensuring fair maps will mean that Harris County residents will have a voice in the issues that affect their lives, from flood control to criminal justice to environmental health to many other issues. Houston in Action member organizations have been planning since 2019 how to participate in the redistricting process. We are amplifying the voices of our communities and members and regular folks whose lives are affected by these maps.
We are fighting for a transparent process that reflects our communities, and a system that represents us all. Our most powerful tool? Community Mapping.
Community mapping is a collaborative mapping exercise where people tell their own stories. Regular people define where their communities are. It is when a group of people self-identify who they are, their mutual interests, and what is valuable to them. By self-identifying their shared culture, history, and policy concerns they demonstrate the benefit of being represented in the same district.
Instead of those outside the community deciding where dividing lines are drawn, those who live in the community draw the maps themselves. Community maps especially allow communities of color to be represented together, amplifying their political power.
Through community mapping we can make Unity Maps. These maps allow groups who have historically been pitted against each other to present a united front about how they want district lines to be drawn.
In addition to the maps themselves, community stories and personal testimony are central to community mapping. Sharing personal stories helps shift the narrative of redistricting from politicians to everyday citizens. After all, everyday citizens having a voice is what democracy is all about. Community maps are an opportunity for elected officials to understand why the drawing of these lines around culture and community are important, and offer the media stories to tell.
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