Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Free Redistricting Tool Now for 12 States

The free congressional redistricting web application I launched a few weeks ago now supports 12 states. These are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Also, the app now has 2008 population estimates. You can find the app here. I will continue to add new states (and make minor fixes) over the next month or so, in order to include all states that may gain or lose congressional seats. After that...what do you think? A number of people thru comments and emails have made suggestions on where to go with this tool. I don't have a ton of time to spend on it, but I want to keep it moving in a useful direction. Some of the suggestions include:
  • Expand the number of districts so that the tool could be used for state legislatures; or better yet, support state legislative redistricting more fully by showing existing districts' shapes.
  • Make this an open source project that could perhaps become an Open Redistricting Project as written about by Heather K. Gerken. The idea here is to enable citizen activists or commissions to do "shadow redistricting" and thus pressure the powers that be into staying in line.
  • Have an option to color according to existing districts as a starting point.
  • Add political data for districts. This may be difficult to do for some states.

And a couple of my own ideas:

  • Figure out a way to get rid of the extra Windows app to make JPGs.
  • Port from C#/Silverlight to Java/Flash and add in Google Maps.

What do you think? Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free Congressional Redistricting Tool Ready

I'm nervous about releasing this into the wild. There are bugs, but I think it's good enough now to let you all check it out. So, as promised a few days ago, here is my Redistricting App. With it you can create congressional districts the way you think they should be. It currently only supports Florida, Texas and Washington, but I'll get more states on line soon, especially those that stand to gain or lose seats after 2010. My last 2 diaries show examples of what you can do with the tool. The Redistricting App page gives a quick rundown of the features and a link to a more detailed Help page. Main Features include:
  • Select state and number of congressional districts (CDs)
  • Use mouse to sweep across map and assign block groups to CDs (block groups usually contain about 4 voting districts; using the larger size makes things more manageable)
  • Pan/Zoom
  • Save/Open your work in XML (saved in isolated storage)
  • Use 2000 census numbers or updated census estimates
  • Show/Unshow city, county and old CDs
  • Create area maps of zoomed in areas
  • Save state and area maps in XML (Separate Windows app can read this and produce JPGs; Silverlight won't allowing saving as JPGs directly; an app is available for download; XML schema also is available)
  • Requires Silverlight 2.0 (runs on Windows and Mac)
  • To get JPGs you have to run a separate Windows-only tool, due to limitations in Silverlight. Check the help page for more details.
  • Loading data for a state from the server is slow, because the data is large, but after that the app is fast and does not go back to the server.
I've worked on this part time over the 5 or 6 months since the election. I've tried maps of 3 states, reworked a lot and come up with this. I certainly have fun playing Redistricter myself. Hopefully you will, too. And maybe this can be useful in helping you make choices in redistricting battles in the future. So, let me know what you think. There's an email address on the main page for more detailed feedback and suggestions. And I'll keep you posted when more states come on line.

Friday, May 1, 2009

If Washington State had 10 congressional districts...

With the likely passage of a bill creating 2 more congressional districts (1 for DC and the other into the mix), it’s possible Washington State could get a 10th CD. Democrats current hold a 6-3 advantage among Washington’s House members. The 6 Democratic seats have been pretty safe in recent years, although WA-03 (Brian Baird) used to be more of a toss-up. Two of the Republican seats take up all of Eastern Washington (east of the Cascade Mountains) and are pretty safe. The other, of course, is WA-08, which covers part of the Seattle-Tacoma suburbs and exurbs, where Dave Reichert (R) defeated Netroots heroine Darcy Burner twice by slim margins. So, with a tenth district thrown into the mix could Democrats gain a 7-3 or even 8-2 advantage? To explore this question, I built a 10-CD map of Washington State, using a software tool I’ve been working on (and you can get, too). Washington w/ 10 CDs First a note on the tool: Next week I’m releasing this easy-to-use web tool for free for anyone to play redistricting. It currently supports Florida, Texas and Washington. I’ll be bringing other states online in subsequent weeks. Check back Monday for a diary on the tool. It uses 2000 U.S. Census Bureau data plus 2007 population estimates (by county). Could Democrats gain an 8-2 advantage? Unlikely for a couple of reasons: Washington has a bipartisan commission that draws the maps. Typically this means incumbent preservation and a reasonably balanced approach to making changes. Also, WA-04 and WA-05 (safe R districts) would shrink in size, leaving a significant area east of the Cascades that would have to be added to other districts. (They used to include all of Okanogan, Chelan and Kittitas counties. Check out WA 2008 Election Results Map to get a feel for what parts of the state are more progressive or conservative.) If too much of eastern Washington were added to WA-03, for example, that could flip to an R. A possible scenario, especially if Dave Reichert (WA-08 R) wins reelection in 2010, is that WA-08 becomes a safer R seat in exchange for a new WA-10 that provides a D advantage, while all other incumbents are protected. This is the map that I’ve drawn. As you can see, I’ve preserved part of the WA-08 base in south King County (where Reichert lives) and eastern Pierce County. But I’ve taken away the “high-tech” suburban areas of Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish and Redmond. WA-08 would still retain the I-90 corridor (Snoqualmie, North Bend) and then jump over the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass (I-90) to Kittitas County. From there the district follows US 97 over Blewett Pass through Chelan County and up to Okanogan County. (The magenta line is the old CD.) Proposed WA-08 (10 CDs) The new WA-10 would become the “high-tech” district including those cities formerly in WA-08 plus Kirkland, Woodinville, Renton and parts of Bothell and SeaTac. (If Darcy tried again in this district, she would have a great chance!) Proposed WA-10 (10 CDs) In other areas, districts 1, 2 and 7 remain largely the same. WA-01 (Jay Inslee-D) would creep further into north Seattle and take a little from WA-02 (Rick Larsen-D), while giving up Kirkland and Woodinville to WA-10. Seattle Area (10 CDs) WA-09 (Adam Smith-D) would become more compact, centered on Tacoma and would become an even safer D. Proposed WA-09 (10 CDs) WA-09 would take away Democratic support from WA-06 (Norm Dicks-D). WA-06 would pick up part of Kitsap county, part of Olympia (a strong D area), but also Chehalis and Centralia (Lewis County), which are more conservative. We could give some of Tacoma back to WA-06, but then the Lewis County areas would pretty much have to go to WA-03, making it more of a risk to Democrats. Proposed WA-06 (10 CDs) For WA-03, this plan would probably be a wash. It would lose conservative Chehalis and Centralia, but also lose perhaps a little more of Democratic Olympia than it gains. It loses Pacific, Wahkiakum and Skamania Counties, but they total only about 18,000 voters (2008 election) Proposed WA-03 (10 CDs) We'll have to wait until 2011 to see what really happens, but this is one idea of might transpire. Check back next week for information on the tool if you want to try your hand at redistricting Washington State (or Texas or Florida), and I promise I'll get the census data for other states that stand to gain or lose sometime in the near future.