Across the country, the ten-year mapping process known as the redistribution is about to begin. In Georgia, when state lawmakers held their first virtual town hall to solicit public comment on the process, several commentators stood out amid the sea of Zoom places. High school and middle school students – who were in elementary and middle school the last time the voting lines were drawn – took turns explaining how the mapping process would affect future generations and stressed that their voices should be heard.
“There is a quarter of a million [Asian American and Pacific Islander] voters in Georgia, but they only make up 2% of the representation in the General Assembly, ”said Bedansh Pandey, a Northview High School student who is part of the growing Asian-American population of suburban Atlanta. He told lawmakers that 2020 is the first time his neighborhood has been represented by someone who looks like him.
“This is why I ask that when designing the districts in our state that will remain in place for the next decade, the diversity of our community be representative,” said Pandey.
I ask that in shaping the districts of our state that will remain in place for the next decade, the diversity of our community be representative. – Bedansh Pandey, student at Northview High School
Sandy Park, another high school student with a keen interest in Georgian politics, said she and her classmates are excited to vote once they turn 18, “but with the districts we live in so awkwardly divided, voters for the first time as we are struggling to know which communities our representatives represent, “she said.” So when young adults like us end up voting, our voices end up being silent due to complicated forms . “
Alex Ames, a student at Georgia Tech and head of the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, said the complicated forms of districts, especially on the state’s college and university campuses, end up depriving young voters of the right to vote and minimizing the power of growing demographics. “From Kennesaw to Athens, our schools are divided so that although our state had the highest participation of young people in America last year, our votes are worth less,” she said.
In fact, Georgia Tech straddles two State House districts in downtown Atlanta. Live in a Berry College dorm in Northwest Georgia, and you’ll have a different rep than your friend across the way. And at the University of Georgia, students can walk through three different neighborhoods between classes.
From Kennesaw to Athens, our schools are divided so that although our state had the highest participation of young people in America last year, our votes are worth less. – Alex Ames, leader of the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition and Georgia Tech student
Redistribution expert and UGA professor Charles Bullock says that often when you see communities dividing up like this, lawmakers see them as filler, “used to get people and districts to respond. the population standard equal but not concentrated “.
One of the most egregious examples could be found in North Carolina when, in 2016, Republicans split North Carolina’s A&T – the nation’s largest historically black college – in two, leaving a majority minority community. represented by two members of the GOP Congress. “Where you find the community is badly divided like that, it probably indicates that when these maps are drawn, that community didn’t have a local person sitting in the legislature,” Bullock said. “Or, at least, didn’t have someone who was part of the majority party and therefore was unable to protect the local community,” he said.
In Georgia and across the country, an increase in youth participation has had a tangible impact in 2020, especially by overturning control of the U.S. Senate in favor of Democrats.
“We saw with the second round of the Georgia Senate, we propelled these elections,” said Christian Dent, who is the young governor of Georgia as part of a high school civic education program.
Dent, a rising high school student from southern Atlanta, traveled nearly two hours to a hearing last week to share his perspective. “We are changing the political landscape and I think we deserve to be heard,” he said.
We are changing the political landscape and I think we deserve to be heard. – Christian Dent, youth governor and high school student of Georgia
Georgia Tech student Alex Ames said young voters don’t ask for a slap on the head for participating in the process, or even special treatment once the lines are drawn.
“We demand small-scale democratic treatment, that is, every vote and every person’s voice should be equally important, even if they live in a bubble that your party thinks is unfavorable. to give a voice, ”she said.
It’s unclear what impact pressure from young activists will have, especially in a state that has added a million residents in the past decade and has become one of the fiercest political battlegrounds.