On Sep. 23, Vote100 — a student-run campaign dedicated to promoting civic engagement among the student body — teamed up with the anti-gerrymandering web application Representable in an effort to fight gerrymandering and raise awareness about its effects on American democracy. The event that they co-sponsored, which was tabled on the first floor of Frist Campus Center, informed students about the effects of gerrymandering in their communities and encouraged students to register to vote and sign Vote100’s pledge to participate in all future elections.
The collaboration between Vote100 and Representable comes as state governments are about to redraw electoral districts based on the information acquired from the 2020 U.S. Census. The results of the redistricting process will influence elections and legislative decisions for the next decade.
Gerrymandering — the act of manipulating district boundaries to dilute the voting power of certain communities or promote the interests of specific political parties — “historically affects Black and Brown communities, indigenous communities, and low-income populations, so Representable is working to fight that through communities of interest,” said Michaela Daniel ’21, the Director of Outreach and Partnerships for Representable.
Founded by University students in 2019 as a culminating project for COS 333: Advanced Programming Techniques, the web application Representable advocates for fair redistricting of United States electoral districts and aids nonprofit organizations in combating gerrymandering by compiling community data and generating maps that reflect the shared interests, values, and concerns of particular communities.
“Making this information available encourages mapmakers to take these communities into account during redistricting, in order to avoid gerrymandering and the “packing and cracking” of marginalized groups,” the Representable website explains.
“Cracking” weakens the voting power of particular communities by dividing the community into different electoral districts to overwhelm their votes with those of the opposing party. “Packing” concentrates communities with similar policy preferences into a single district to lessen their voting power in other districts.
“With Representable, anyone can go in and learn about communities of interest and redistricting and gerrymandering, map their community of interest and give testimony about their community of interest, and then send this information to lawmakers and voting rights organizations all across the United States,” Daniel said.
At the tabling event in Frist, students could approach the Representable representatives to learn more about the shared social, cultural, historical, and economic interests in their community, how their state handles redistricting, and how Representable can make an impact in each state.
Currently, Representable is working with organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP to ensure that every vote, especially those of marginalized communities, is given equal weight.
As the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election compelled many states to implement strict voting laws, Vote100 has shifted its efforts to encourage student engagement at the local and state levels.
Though it can be challenging to promote civic involvement without the constant coverage of a presidential election reminding citizens of their democratic duty, Vote100 is committed to communicating to students the “ways in which you can make an impact in your community,” said Vote100 Fellow Joe Shipley ’22. “Vote100 has a role in reminding students that they can and should make their voices heard.”
The event took place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Frist Campus Center.
Alexa Marsh is a news contributor for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.