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Courtesy Millennial Action Project

MAP founder Steven Olikara (left) stepped down from the top job earlier this year. Layla Zaidane has been named the new CEO.

Millennial Action Project and its founder begin new chapters

Growing up in Milwaukee, Steven Olikara felt that playing music was the only way to bring people of all backgrounds and ideologies together — until he was inspired to launch the Millennial Action Project.

Believing the trend toward polarization had put American democracy on perilous footing, Olikara decided to translate his musical performances into political involvement on a national scale. In 2013, he officially launched MAP with the hopes that the next generation could bridge the political divide and put America on the right path forward.

Now, after nearly a decade at the helm, Olikara has stepped down as both he and the organization enter new chapters. On Wednesday, the organization announced as his successor Layla Zaidane, who previously served as MAP's executive director and COO. As for Olikara's next steps, the 31-year-old has his sights set on a potential Senate run next year when Republican Ron Johnson's seat is up for election.

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Most of America under severe risk of gerrymandering, report finds

As states prepare to redraw their election maps later this year, democracy reform advocates are raising the alarm once more about the severe threat of gerrymandering facing a vast majority of the country.

The Gerrymandering Threat Index, released Monday by RepresentUs, identifies 35 states — with a collective population of more than 188 million people — at extreme or high risk of partisan gerrymandering this cycle. These are red and blue states, ranging in population from Texas to Wyoming.

While some states enacted redistricting reforms over the last decade, politicians still have control over the mapmaking process in most states. Republicans will have the advantage in 21 states, Democrats will lead the redrawing in nine and another nine will have a divided government in charge.

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Report: Few Americans have a say in most congressional elections

Despite record-high turnout in last year's general election, a new report found that a majority of congressional elections in 2020 were determined by only a small number of voters due to the widely used partisan primary system.

Unite America, which released "The Primary Problem" on Tuesday, found that just 10 percent of voters cast ballots in primaries that ultimately decided the winners of 83 percent of House seats. These "safe" seats are in districts that are reliably retained by the same party in nearly every election, so the real competition is not in the general election but in the primary.

The resulting problem, the report concludes, is high re-election rates for members of Congress, even though most voters don't feel adequately represented by their elected officials or approve of the job they are doing. Unite America's solution: Adopt open and nonpartisan primaries.

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Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn says her organization will continue to fight against racial and partisan gerrymandering in 2021.

Reform in 2021: Common Cause to push states, Congress to strengthen voting rights

This is the third installment of an ongoing Q&A series.

As Democrats take power in Washington, if only tenuously, many democracy reform groups see a potential path toward making the American political system work better. In this installment, Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, answers our questions about 2020 accomplishments and plans for the year ahead. Her organization has long been on the front lines of advocating for democracy reform. Hobert Flynn's responses have been edited for clarity and length.

First, let's briefly recap 2020. What was your biggest triumph last year?

In an unprecedented election year, challenged by the pandemic and rampant disinformation, Common Cause worked to ensure that every voter was able to cast their ballot safely, securely and with the confidence that their ballot would be counted. We navigated and combatted an unprecedented amount of online voter intimidation and disinformation, and implemented a multipronged approach to fight suppression policies, actions and tactics from an array of special interests at all levels, up to and including the Trump administration.

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