Here at Azavea, we have a long history of championing fair and representative electoral districts. Back in 2011, we built DistrictBuilder, a web-based tool to allow the public to participate in the civic act of drawing their own legislative districts. The goal of the project, which was developed in partnership with the Public Mapping Project, was to bring legislative redistricting out from behind closed doors and make it a publicly accessible process for everyone. DistrictBuilder uses census data and district geometry to compute metrics like population balance, demographic representation, and district compactness. Users can see these shift in real time as they make changes to districts.
Over the years, DistrictBuilder has supported several redistricting efforts in Philadelphia, Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota, Arizona, California and Mexico. The most recent DistrictBuilder deployment is a statewide effort here in Pennsylvania called Draw the Lines, organized by the Committee of Seventy.
When the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts was successfully challenged last year, the State Supreme Court ordered the districts redrawn. Draw the Lines took the initiative to “fix the bug in the operating system of democracy” by generating grass-roots interest in drawing legislative districts. DistrictBuilder was the ideal tool for Draw the Lines to open up Pennsylvania’s redistricting to the public and give everyone a chance to draw their own version of Pennsylvania’s districts.
Azavea worked with Draw the Lines to implement changes that bring the application up-to-date with the contemporary web. Most visibly, Azavea made some striking updates to the user interface design, resulting in a clean, modern look for DistrictBuilder.
Draw the Lines will be running a series of contests, starting this fall, to encourage the public to get involved. The first contest focuses on redrawing the Pennsylvania Congressional Districts, and runs from September 17th to December 14th. Check out Draw the Lines to learn more and sign up to start mapping!