From left: Courtesy of Julia Lin; Courtesy of Joshua Lafair; Courtesy of Jessie Rievman; Courtesy of Common Cause

Ending Gerrymandering

Young people around the country are getting involved in the fight for fair elections

Julia Lin

Age 17 • Frederick, Maryland

Julia Lin began volunteering last year with RepresentUs, a nonpartisan organization working to prevent political corruption and gerrymandering. Now she’s one of the leaders of the group’s Meme Team, which creates funny, eye-catching images to call attention to what’s going on. (Some of the team’s recent memes have compared the bizarre shapes of gerrymandered districts to Pokémon characters, for example.) For Julia, one of the most rewarding parts of the work is getting to know other volunteers, who often bring unique perspectives to the community. “We have people from [all over] the political spectrum, and they all come together,” she says. “It’s a nice break to see that people can still work together in this country and it’s not just political division.”

Courtesy of Joshua Lafair

The Lafair siblings: (from left) Josh, Rebecca, and Louis

Josh Lafair

Age 20 • Austin, Texas

Josh Lafair and his siblings, Louis and Rebecca, are big board game fans. They’re also concerned about the fact that their hometown has been carved into six different congressional districts. So they decided to create a game to raise awareness. “Gerrymandering has all the correct aspects of a board game: scheming, strategizing, backstabbing,” Lafair says. They made Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, which lets players redraw districts to ensure their political party wins the election. There’s also an online version, which Lafair hopes to get into as many classrooms as possible. “Gerrymandering is an extraordinarily complicated topic,” he says. “This provides an introductory way for people to learn about it in a way that doesn’t seem as scary.”

Jessie Rievman

Age 18 • Millburn, New Jersey

Courtesy of Jessie Rievman

During the summer of 2020, Jessie Rievman learned about an organization called V3ssel Leadership Initiative, which aims to facilitate dialogue between high school students and federal and local government. Excited about the idea, she quickly launched a chapter in her town. Her group has since hosted several educational events about topics such as voter suppression and racial injustice. About 50 people turned up to watch a recent Zoom panel on gerrymandering and other voting issues. Experts answered participants’ questions and doled out resources and suggestions for volunteer opportunities. It left Rievman feeling optimistic about how young people might be able to effect change. “We’re not politicians and it doesn’t seem like we can do that much,” Rievman says, “but they were giving us hope that whatever work we do is meaningful.”

Courtesy of Common Cause

Love Caesar (right) with her friends and fellow organizers in North Carolina

Love Caesar

Age 23 • Greensboro, North Carolina

In 2016, the North Carolina legislature redrew the state’s congressional districts, splitting the campus of North Carolina A&T State University—the largest historically Black college in the nation—in half. Concerned that this would dilute their voting power, Caesar and some of her fellow students began speaking out. “I was being disenfranchised, and it felt as if my vote wasn’t counting as a full vote,” Caesar says. She was proud to watch the community come together to fight—and get results. In late 2019, a state court ruled that the two districts should be reunited. But Caesar’s work didn’t stop there. Through Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization, she’s now helping other students with redistricting-related activism. “We want to keep these people together so they can have a voice that is unified,” she says, “and not split up into different sections that don’t make any sense.”

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