Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
Map enthusiast Blair Thornburgh is so fascinated by redistricting that she whipped up some love letters to democracy.
Hunting for a warm-and-fuzzy message for the map enthusiast in your life? Blair Thornburgh has got you covered: She whipped up these delightfully wonky odes to democracy during lunch.
Thornburgh, a Philadelphia book editor with some serious Photoshop skills, took a quick stroll through Google Images in pursuit of some of the squiggliest gerrymandered electoral districts, and paired their silhouettes with bon mots: “You’re the only gerryMANder for me,” and “Electoral manipulation is real, just like our love.” The sweet nothings are rosy, with a dash of vinegar.
I made gerrymandering valentines, because nothing says love like redistricting!! pic.twitter.com/BYgMcFQe2T— Blair Thornburgh (@ATallOrder) February 14, 2017
When Thornburgh shared them on Twitter, hawk-eyed observers pointed out that the district maps weren’t totally up to date. “Still, I think the point stands,” she says.
Thornburgh traces her recent awakening to the perils of gerrymandering to hearing Salon’s David Daley talk about his book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. She gave it a read. Then, she says, “I just got mad—redistricting is such a wonky issue that it seemed easy to rig it without the public noticing, precisely because it's so unsexy.” Since then, Thornburgh has hoofed it to events such as a recent town hall held by Fair Districts PA, which drew a capacity crowd.
If this Valentine’s Day effort had been less slapdash, she adds, she would have printed batches as postcards, and donated the proceeds to a fair-districting cause. (Those notes would likely have plenty of company: In the wake of the recent women’s marches scattered across the globe, organizers have urged demonstrators to fill up their reps’ snail mail boxes with letters.)
Next up for Thornburgh’s art-based advocacy: a gerrymandering-themed coloring book. The collaboration with the Philly-based watchdog group Committee of Seventy is due out this spring.