As a League of Women Voters member and officer, I advocate every day for our community to be more aware and involved in our state’s democratic process. Time and time again, I hear people say things like “my vote doesn’t count” or “they aren’t going to listen to us anyway” as a reason to be uninformed and unengaged in decisions being made at the state Capitol.

How can I ask people to actively contribute to our democracy when they feel their voices aren’t being heard?

The root of the problem is partisan gerrymandering, a trick politicians use to manipulate voting districts to keep themselves in office.

Partisan gerrymandering means our politicians are picking their voters. Through back-room deals and decisions made with special interests in mind, our politicians currently have the ability to pick and choose which parts of communities they want to represent – often the parts they know will be easier to win when it comes voting time.

If you look at a map of current state and congressional districts, the lines are jarring. A voter in rural Oklahoma may share a representative with one of our state’s more urban areas, but the needs of those communities differ drastically. This results in many voters feeling their voices are lost in the crowd.

People Not Politicians, a coalition of concerned Oklahomans, filed a ballot initiative to end partisan gerrymandering by creating an independent commission to redraw state and congressional districts after each census to ensure districts are representative of communities across the state. This commission would take the politics out of the redistricting process and allow it to be focused entirely on the people, how it should be.

People Not Politicians wants to give the power to the voters – regular people like you and me – to hold our politicians accountable to start solving our state’s real issues. When the people get to decide who represents them, instead of politicians choosing their voters, our elected officials are forced to make decisions that represent the will of their constituents. Then, and only then, will we stop seeing our hospitals close, roads crumble and schools fail, all real issues our politicians have the ability to focus on and fix.

The practice of partisan gerrymandering is not new, nor is just one party guilty of it. No matter which party, both sides of the aisle are at fault and should be a part of fixing it. It’s time we make drawing districts about the people. It’s time all citizens feel like their vote counts. It’s time we hold the politicians in power accountable. That’s why I support the Yes on 804 ballot initiative and think you should too.

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