Young North Carolinians gathered Wednesday morning outside the Legislature to talk about how gerrymandering affects their futures and to call on lawmakers to draw fair voting maps.
The event, entitled “Fair Maps for a Fair Future,” featured college students and recent graduates from across the state who are participating in Democracy North Carolina’s summer internship program, Democracy Summer.
“Working for these causes, I believe I’ve already become a familiar face in the halls, offices and chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly,” said Ajamu Dillahunt, a 20-year-old rising junior at North Carolina Central University in Durham. “I’m here today … to represent hundreds of thousands of voters from Greensville to Asheville who understand that until we end the racial and partisan gerrymandering that plagues our state, until we build champions for fair voting maps inside and outside of the People’s House, and until we are able to pick our representatives, not the other way around, there will be no justice for us.”
Dozens of students stood behind Dillahunt and held up “a wall” of petitions with over 10,000 signatures from North Carolinians calling on lawmakers to end racial gerrymandering and support fair voting maps.
Dillahunt said the wall represents how a lack of fair voting maps remains a barrier to a fair future.
After students spoke about gerrymandering, they shouted, “What do we want? Fair maps! When do we want them? Now!”
Austin Padilla, a rising sophomore at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, said gerrymandering is a fundamental, undemocratic practice that invalidates the Constitutional principle of one person, one vote.
“We should be supportive of our citizens taking part in our democracy and end barriers to access,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Southeastern Regional Democracy Summer intern Chyna Melton, who recently graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, was hopeful that her support for redistricting reform would be adopted by lawmakers.
“I am here today because from Boone, where I went to college, to Fayetteville where I have my office, lawmakers have skillfully gerrymandered my state, packing and cracking pockets of voters like myself to nullify my vote and my voice,” she said. “As a young voter and an activist, it is important for me push for fair maps to reflect a true democracy and, through my words and actions today, encourage others to do the same. It is my abiding hope that this will give purpose to our votes and prove that our votes do matter.”
Democracy NC spokesperson Jen Jones said it was important for young voters to make their voices heard because gerrymandered maps impact their future.
“Young people are incredibly demoralized with the state of our democracy,” she said.
After the rally, students met with lawmakers inside the Legislature to voice their desire for redistricting reform.
Just before they got started at the rally, Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Durham, Orange) stopped by to thank students for their involvement.
“You are really working on the single most important cause,” he told them.