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Redistricting reformers to Oregon voters: You've got mail

In keeping with social distancing mandates, crusaders against partisan gerrymandering in Oregon have settled on a new old-fashioned way to recruit allies: Send a letter, by snail mail.

With the coronavirus pandemic ruling out traditional in-person canvassing across the country, many grassroots democracy efforts have gone silent — some after failing to get permission to obtain electronic signatures for their ballot measures.

Redistricting reformers in Oregon aren't going down the online route. Instead they are mailing copies of their ballot proposal, which would turn legislative mapmaking over to an independent redistricting commission, to half a million residential addresses in search of handwritten endorsements.

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Cinderella bracket continues in Democracy Madness

The Final Four in the Elections quarter of our Democracy Madness draw is upon us — and it turns out only one top seed has made it to the regional semifinals.

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Inmates at the Cook County, Ill. jail vote in the state's primary earlier this month. Colorado has passed a law that counts prisoners at the address where they last lived instead of the prison for the purposes of drawing legislative boundaries.

Colorado ends prison gerrymandering

Colorado has become the eighth state to end prison gerrymandering, meaning prisoners will be counted for redistricting purposes at the last place they lived instead of at the site of their incarceration.

Gov. Jared Polis signed that switch into law last week after the bill was passed by his fellow Democrats in control of the General Assembly. New Jersey passed similar legislation earlier this year, and nearly a dozen other states are considering bills, according to the Prison Policy Initiative's Prison Gerrymandering Project.

Proponents of the change say counting people where they are imprisoned when drawing congressional, state legislative and local government districts unfairly shifts power to rural districts at the expense of urban areas where a majority of the prisoners are from.

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Princeton Gerrymandering Project

Sam Wang is the director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Meet the reformer: Sam Wang, a professor of fair redistricting math

Sam Wang is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton, where he's been on the faculty 14 years and focuses on how the brain processes sensory, cognitive and emotional information. But he's also part of the university's Program in Law and Public Affairs. He created the Princeton Election Consortium in 2008 to come up with statistical models for predicting presidential and Senate results based on polling. And after the last nationwide redistricting, in 2012, he created the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. Today he and his seven-member team run a website that permits voters to use mathematical models to decide if where they live is in an unfairly skewed legislative or congressional district. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

Combining data, tech and law to help citizens make district lines fairer and eliminate bugs from democracy.

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