By Wendy Underhill
I’m at the airport about to take off for Salt Lake City, where NCSL is hosting its final redistricting seminar in preparation for the new cycle of redistricting.
Suffice to say, I’m excited. Being with people after connecting over screens for so long is a bit of a thrill all on its own. I expect fewer hugs and handshakes than in the before times, but that’s OK.
What’s really great is that we have the nation’s redistricting experts gathered all in one place.
We have litigators who can go toe-to-toe in a courtroom, but in Salt Lake, they’ll be sitting side-by-side on the stage, sharing their expertise. We have representatives of many of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations participating (with the hope that redistricters can learn a thing or two that might keep them from being sued).
We have experienced legislators and legislative staff who will share what they’ve learned about redistricting law—sometimes having learned it the hard way.
Most of all, we have NCSL's constituents attending—132 legislators and 141 legislative staff. This event may be the biggest bipartisan gathering of legislators since December 2019, when NCSL held its last national in-person meeting in Phoenix.
Let’s focus on that word, bipartisan. When you think of redistricting, partisan bickering—not bipartisanship—probably comes to mind. Not in Salt Lake City not this week.
Here’s what I wrote to the three dozen presenters who are headed to the Beehive State just about now:
“You all know that NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves all the legislators and legislative staff throughout the nation. That means that any information NCSL provides is fact-based and presented in a nonpartisan manner. For a meeting such as this, we try to offer a balance of perspectives, with each of you bringing your own expertise and style. Given that redistricting can be a hot button topic, my ask is that, as you plan your remarks, remember that the audience is politically diverse and yet all gathered for the same purpose (learning).”
I know that once these folks head home and start drafting maps, partisanship will come to the fore. But I plan to enjoy the calm before the storm.
Wendy Underhill is the director of NCSL’s Redistricting and Elections Program.