POLIS Director Fritz Mayer kicked off 2017 with Duke’s first “Democracy Lab” course. This class empowers about two-dozen undergraduate and graduate students to research innovative, bipartisan solutions to political challenges. Divided into groups, the students engage in one of the following areas:
- Redistricting / Gerrymandering
Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years based on the latest decennial census. In most instances, state legislatures are primarily responsible for shifting these boundaries. In some cases, these new boundaries are intended to promote the political agenda of whichever party is leading that state legislature. To the victors go the spoils? Or should some semblance of “fairness” supersede the politicization of district maps? Create a method for redrawing these maps that most represents the will of the people.
- Voter Registration
Approximately two-thirds of voting-age citizens are registered to vote. Various states and localities favor registration policies aimed primarily at registering more citizens, while some others focus more on limiting and/or eliminating fraud and abuse. Devise voter registration strategies that would advance both goals.
- Driving Social Impact Through Film
Film has proven to be one of the most powerful tools for collaboration—able to bridge the divide between people with different backgrounds, religions, and ideologies, in a way that facts and stats cannot alone. This lab introduces students to the critical thinking and tactical know-how of professionals in the issue-advocacy space, using film and story as the primary vehicle for social change. Develop a strategic campaign plan surrounding an issue-driven film of the students’ choosing, designed to create lasting social impact.