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This hackathon is taking on gerrymandering

The Thursday Network will host #UnHacktheVote2017, a hackathon aimed toward developing innovative ways to protect voting rights.

#UNHacktheVote2017 swag. (Courtesy photo)

Meet Amy Lee Walton. She’s the woman using her JFDI attitude to helm a hackathon that tackles gerrymandering.

Amy Lee Walton. (Courtesy photo)

Amy Lee Walton. (Courtesy photo)

This weekend, Thursday Network will be calling on D.C. technologists for its inaugural hackathon to educate young professionals about gerrymandering and propose tech-driven solutions to raise awareness and fight the archaic practice. #UNHacktheVote2017 will run from July 20-22 and has Mapbox and The Iron Yard as leading sponsors.

Walton, a cartographer at Mapbox and Personal and Professional Development (PPD) Chair at Thursday Network (the young professional arm of Greater Washington Urban League), felt inspired to create the event after a few choice words from one of her Twitter followers — and former president Barack Obama.

“President Obama’s farewell speech at the start of 2017 was my call to action!” Walton told “He said as American citizens it was our duty to serve as ‘anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy’ and challenged us to get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand change.”

Amy Lee Barack Obama Follows


For Walton and the hackathon planning committee, that means taking on the part of the election process that takes place before anyone goes to vote.

Every 10 years, the major political party of each state redraws the boundaries of their Congressional districts. Gerrymandering occurs when the districts are crafted in an arbitrary fashion to ensure that one party receives more votes than another.

#UNHacktheVote2017 team gets ready. (Courtesy photo)

#UNHacktheVote2017 team gets ready. (Courtesy photo)

#UNHacktheVote will bring young professionals together to learn about redistricting and gerrymandering, build teams to find solutions and pitch their presentations.

Some may be as young as 14 years old. Walton believes it’s crucial that the competition be open even to incoming high school freshmen.

“It’s never too early to groom our next generation,” she explained. “Building relationships and opportunities to empower our future leaders is a large part of [Thursday Network’s] mission.”

Participants don’t have to arrive with groups already formed or extensive background in code. They just need a thirst to learn more about how technology can be used to solve political processes.

Each group will have the opportunity to pitch their solution to panel of judges including:

  • German Lopez, Senior Reporter at Vox Media
  • Michal Migurski, Open Source Geospatial Code and Data Person expert at Remix and OpenElections volunteer
  • Belman Woodson, Technology Consulting Manager and Program/Project Management at Accenture
  • Claudia Sarahe, Creative Creator + Tech at Composites Collective

The top three teams will be awarded prizes, which are set to be announced during the competition.

Walton and the Thursday Network are looking for two major outcomes from this hackathon: more awareness about gerrymandering and increased support towards the movement to end the practice. And Walton is hopeful that this will only be the beginning.

“I plan to pitch #UNHackTheVote2018 to the National Urban League Young Professionals,” she said. “Extending this hackathon’s reach nationwide would be amazingly productive for the movement.”

She’s also looking forward to more collaborations with Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute preserving voting rights, and OpenElections, a source of official election results aiming to create the first free, comprehensive, standardized, linked set of election data for the United States.

The entire weekend of events will take place at The Iron Yard in Washington, D.C. There are only a few more spaces left for #UnHacktheVote2017. To sign up for the hackathon, click the button below. Registration ends on Tuesday, July 18, at midnight.


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