We mourn the tragedies of COVID-19 and its delta variant, plus wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, death and destruction, and life-changing occurrences because of them. In addition to those nature-based tragedies, we mourn man’s invasion into peace, harmony and love with complex racial and gender attacks, hate, political posturing and ultimately the attack on democracy. We mourn, but we pray for our people and our country.
With all of these levels of hardships that we face, our personal challenge is to press on, continue with hope, advocacy and activism. We press on with an eye toward the future of our children and normalcy. We find ourselves challenged to stay focused amidst the surrounding trauma, the frontal attacks on our democracy and our common sense. How did misinformation, big lies, hate and white supremacy get its footing? We must press on.
We must press on to save our planet from violent climate change, save the world from war and rumors of war, terrorism, save our country from infrastructure and moral decay, the dilution of the checks and balances in our three branches of government, and the undermining and suppression of democracy’s basics, including voting rights for everyone. We must press on.
In Nebraska, we come upon another responsibility, to translate our most recent 2020 Census count, and its resulting population shifts from rural to urban, and redraw the district boundaries for our state legislative districts and our three congressional districts. What’s at stake is who represents the people. This redistricting process has the potential for Nebraska to be the good, the bad or the ugly.
The goal of redistricting is to make the various state legislative and congressional districts relatively equal in population. That’s the good.
The lines can be drawn to alter the balance of power in a way that is not representative of voters and undermines the equality and fairness of the one-person, one-vote principle, and does not preserve recognizable and cohesive communities. That’s bad.
The bad becomes ugly when district lines are manipulated to give one political party an advantage, allowing parties and politicians in power to stay in power by creating an unfair advantage. That ugly process is gerrymandering.
Nebraska has started the process of redistricting. The Legislature has been charged with managing and conducting the process. Drafts of initial maps are in progress and a redistricting committee made up of nine state senators is in the process of reviewing and getting public input on those maps. By November, the Legislature will approve final maps. By December, the governor will sign or veto the supporting legislation.
We, as a people, must press on, participate, become watchdogs to ensure that the redistricting process does not turn ugly. We must be in contact with our senators, we must attend public hearings to make our voices heard, and we must educate and spread the word to our fellow citizens.
Many organizations, including the League of Women Voters and Common Cause are providing information to the public and fair maps for consideration. In our area, Sens. Carol Blood from Bellevue and Steve Lathrop and Justin Wayne from Omaha are on the Redistricting Committee.
Three public hearings are planned this week:
1:30 p.m. today, Central Community College, Room 555, Health Science Education Center, 3134 W. Highway 34, Grand Island
9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15; Nebraska State Capitol, Room 1524, Lincoln
10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 16; Scott Conference Center, 6450 Pine St., Omaha
Black Votes Matter Institute of Community Engagement will be conducting a town hall meeting, intended to educate the public on how to interact, participate and give input to the redistricting process. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. today at 2514 North 24th St.
I offer one more thought: My recommendation is to decline to sign the petition being circulated to put on ballot an initiative to change the Nebraska Constitution to require voter ID in Nebraska. We don’t need Voter ID, we don’t need to alter our Constitution, we need only to press on.
Preston Love Jr. is a longtime Omaha civic engagement activist who also teaches black studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.