Local redistricting and rural America

By Brenda Matherly

Local government impacts you every day. Property taxes, local sales tax and infrastructure are just a few examples where local elected officials have control. So, it is up to the county Farm Bureau (CFB) and its members to ensure rural America is represented. I’m not talking about voting, although that is very important. I’m talking about redistricting.

The latest LINK newsletter lays out the how, the what, the when, and even provides an example of how Champaign CFB got engaged 10 years ago. This article will hopefully encourage you to begin conversations with your CFB leadership, membership and local elected leaders about the redistricting process within your county. Your CFB is the perfect organization to start these talks.

Citizens across this state have complained about gerrymandered districts at the state and national level for years. This process is often structured to ensure success for the chosen candidate. Our goal is to prevent this at the local level.

Redistricting impacts many counties, but it can be especially vital in counties with a large urban population. Imagine this scenario … a large, populous city with a few rural communities and small population. If the elected county board members were to draw the maps in a way that starts in the urban area and extends out to pick up a portion of the rural area, this may dilute representation of agriculture’s interests. What if a county board repeated this process to ensure the urban vote has disproportionate control of the county board?

The scenario above is why your CFB must engage in the redistricting process. Ensuring rural representation is necessary.

So, how should the CFB engage?

  1. Make the decision to participate. Reach out to members of the county board and start a discussion on their intended process.
  2. Reach out to other associations within the county. An example of this may be the Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Encourage the creation of a fair, transparent, citizen-based commission to redraw these districts. Advocate for representation from rural communities and agriculture.
  4. Develop a letter to the editor campaign encouraging a citizen-based commission.
  5. Understand the public hearing process within your county and engage. If you are not sure what this is, reach out to local elected officials.

START NOW! Harvest is here and the elections are on everyone’s mind. But redistricting must start now. The CFB must get ahead of this process before it has already been determined. Remember, this redrawn map will represent you for the next decade. Encourage a process and finished product that represents rural America and your way of life.

This story appears in the September-October edition of LINK.