Gerrymandering guarantees undemocratic elections. Activists in Wisconsin are organizing to win an uphill battle for a fairer process.
High school student Michael Nichols became an activist against gerrymandering as he was wrapping up his senior year in spring 2020.
“All of a sudden in quarantine I got this energy,” the northwest Wisconsin resident says. Nichols believes that gerrymandering — the process of redrawing electoral districts in an intentionally partisan way — is a major roadblock to any meaningful state and federal legislation on climate change, which he considers the most important issue of our time.
States redraw their electoral maps every 10 years (the next time being 2021) based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Congressional districts all represent roughly the same number of people (about 700,000), so population changes demand the districts be reviewed after the new census data comes out. The redistricting process itself is a balancing act of retaining geographic compactness, respecting existing boundaries (such as county lines and school districts), following federal laws (against racial discrimination, for example) and trying to keep communities with shared policy interests grouped together.