How Democrats are fighting to undo a decade's worth of Republican gerrymandering

Spc. Lincoln Meverden and Pfc. Napatsawan Sanguanboon, both of the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, process ballots May 12 in Maine, Wisconsin. Approximately 160 Wisconsin National Guard Citizen Soldiers mobilized to State Active Duty as poll workers supporting the 7th Congressional District special election in northern Wisconsin. Wisconsin National Guard photo

The presidential and U.S. Senate races have dominated the 2020 election season. But down the ballot, races for state legislature and governor will determine the political complexion in many purple states for the next decade—much longer than the next president will serve.

The reason these races have such a long-lasting impact is that the winners of state legislative elections this fall will redraw the boundaries for their legislative districts and for U.S. House seats. A decade ago, the Republican Party, who saw their presidential candidate lose in 2008 by nearly 10 million votes, targeted 107 races in 16 states with the goal of redrawing maps affecting 190 U.S. House seats. The common term for aggressively segregating voters into districts is gerrymandering.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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