Local political group assists Virginia Dems with campaign

A standing-room-only crowd recently gathered at the Copper Still in Homewood to support two candidates whom they've never met -- in fact, they are not even from Illinois.

The event was a first for the newly-formed Sister District Project South Suburbs. The goal: To turn states blue by winning carefully-targeted legislative races in swing districts. By flipping control of the state legislature, volunteers hope to end partisan gerrymandering that does not accurately reflect the political preferences of the state.

So, that's how some 50 Homewood-Flossmoor residents convened to write 500 postcards for Shelly Simonds and Alex Askew, both of whom are running for the House of Delegates in Virginia in Tuesday's general election. Simonds finished in a tie in the 2017 election and lost when her opponent's name was drawn from a bowl. Askew is vying for a long-standing Republican seat that Democrats hope to pick up next month.

"Illegal voter suppression and disenfranchisement is a hot-button issue for me," said Jim Harper of Flossmoor, who organized the south suburban team in July. He attributed the strong local turnout to voter frustration.

"People are looking for some way to get involved," he said. "They don't want to just complain, but to make positive change."

The Sister District Project was started by a group of women in San Francisco after the 2016 election. In three years, the organization has grown to more than 40,000 volunteers nationwide, reaching out to an estimated 1.5 million voters by knocking on doors, phone-banking, fund-raising and texting to ensure fair redistricting and equal representation for all Americans.

The Copper Still gathering on Oct. 16 was hosted by Homewood residents Shelly Marks and Shelley Peck. The next event will be a "get out the vote" phone-a-thon on Monday, Nov. 4, at the Redbird Café in Homewood.

Flipping Virginia from red to blue won't be easy, but worth the effort, Harper explained.

"One of the best long-term remedies to the attack on our democracy and freedom is a strong foundation, which includes progressive and socially responsible state legislatures. The Sister District Project and our south suburban team will be on the front lines of this battle."

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