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Michael Li to discuss redistricting efforts in U.S.

According to Michael Li, there’s a battle being waged in the United States, and it’s happening all around us: redistricting.

“We completed the latest round of redistricting after the 2020 census,” said Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. “All around the country, legislative and congressional maps are being redrawn. (In my lecture) I’m going to focus on congressional maps. I’m also going to answer some questions about looking at how the cycle went, and who came out ahead, looking at it through a variety of lenses.”

Li said there isn’t one redistricting story; there’s multiple redistricting stories.

“I’m going to break it down and look at it from the standpoint of who might win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, what happened to competition, how did minority voters fare, how bad is the gerrymandering this decade, and things like that,” he said.

At 10:45 a.m. Thursday, July 28, in the Amphitheater, Li will speak to Chautauqua as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series Week Five theme, “The Vote and Democracy.” He replaces previously announced lecturer Elaine C. Kamarck of Brookings Institution.  

“I’m going to look at some of the battles that are coming ahead,” Li said. “Even though we’ve finished the redistricting cycle, we really haven’t finished it; we’ve just finished act one.”

Li said his path to the Brennan Center for Justice wasn’t quite a linear one. He actually started off as a history major during undergraduate studies.

“I thought about going to grad school to get a Ph.D. in history, but the job market was too risky,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ll get a law degree and have that in the background.’ But it turned out I really enjoyed law and was really good at it. I started working at a law firm in Dallas for a number of years, practicing corporate law, and doing politics on the side.”

Li started writing about redistricting in 2011 because he realized he could use the internet to reach a wider audience.

“I started blogging, and it became all-consuming,” he said. “I was offered a job at NYU, at the Brennan Center, and decided to take that. It’s been a winding path for me.”

Redistricting and voting rights are crucial topics, Li said.

“ ‘Who’s at the table?’ is another foundational issue,” he said. “We fought the revolution over representation, and we always seem to talk about no taxation without representation, and people focus on (just) the taxation part of it.”

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The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.

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