A Clever 5K Run's Course Is Based On How Voting Districts Gerrymander Their Borders

The event will have participants and spectators tracing the nonsensical borders that determine voting districts.

When John Kennedy realized the profound implication of gerrymandering — the systematic manipulation of voting district borders to favor a particular vote or party — he sought a clever way to impress upon others just how damaging this practice was to the democratic process. Called to action in protest of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” the artist and documentarian found that the borders of voting districts in his hometown of Asheville were so convoluted and nonsensical that he was having difficulty determining what district he resided in.

Amid his frustration in learning how districts are drawn and altered to avoid blocks or even specific buildings, Kennedy’s wife, Cinnamon, offered up an idea to enlighten other Asheville residents as to the scope of the problem. And thus, the seeds for the “Gerrymander 5K” were planted. However, Kennedy had no experience and little in the way of resources to breathe life into the idea, so he recruited another group that would certainly have a stake in bringing light to the local gerrymandering issue — the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County.

The concept was an easy sell, league president Alana Pierce conveyed to Upworthy. “We want to demonstrate what [gerrymandering] is, how it can divide our communities and dilute our vote — no matter what party you're part of,” she said. “Secondarily, this is a fun way to get the attention of the people who are supposed to be representing us to say that we don't believe this methodology is fair and we don't feel like you are really representing us.”

With their involvement, the race was scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4. As for the course, well, it would stay true to district boundaries — jogging, kinking, and curving down streets, reminding runners of the geographic (and ethical) gymnastics that go into creating their districts and determining their representation.

Image via League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County.

Ahead of the actual race, the event already has garnered far more interest than anticipated, with more than 250 runners registered and no doubt countless bystanders prepared to cheer them on and witness the effects of gerrymandering firsthand.

To that end, runners are encouraged to chalk the course as they move to provide a more durable reminder of the extent to which the shady practice can bifurcate otherwise intact neighborhoods. Beyond the participants, the innovative event has garnered national attention and inspired others to follow suit in their own gerrymandered districts, of which there is no shortage nationally.

Those who would like to make a donation (or buy a shirt) to help promote awareness of the issue can do so on the League of Women Voters’ website.

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

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