By Kristin Stratman
Attendees worked on laptops, drawing maps of their communities with the online program DistrictR. As people drew their maps, they included details about some of the assets and issues they see in their neighborhoods.
Researchers at The Ohio State University’s Kerwan Institute will aggregate and analyze the information in order to generate sample district maps. Then they’ll submit the maps to the Ohio Redistricting Commission before it votes on new congressional and state legislative district maps later this year.
Jeniece Brock is the Policy & Advocacy Director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. At the event, she said community members need to be involved in their state’s mapmaking process for the maps to be fair.
“A lot of times folks are left out of the process whether they’re missed because they’re not counted in the census or maybe they don’t feel like they’ve been represented when the lines have been drawn in the past," said Brock, "We’re hoping to make sure that people’s voices are heard and that they have a seat at the table.”
Dan Dusa came to the event with his wife. Together, they drew maps of their community in Greenhills, Ohio. Dusa says gerrymandered legislative maps in the past have left him feeling like he wasn’t being represented fairly in his district.
“It’s so overly partisan that it’s, it's undemocratic," said Dusa, "I would just like it to be a little more representative of the actual community instead of just a partisan puzzle.”
Rashida Manuel, the Director of Public Engagement at Green Umbrella, says unfair districts can lead to environmental injustices as certain groups are exposed to higher levels of pollution and the impacts of climate change. She says this can lead to higher rates of health disparities like asthma and diabetes.
"The thing is that folks know that they’re experiencing all of these things but they’re not necessarily tying it to environmental degradation and climate change," said Manuel, "And if we want to start to address those issues we need to make sure that their voices and their votes count.”
So far, almost 2,000 Ohioans have created community maps across the state.