Redistricting: Why States Won't Let the Public Draw Maps Online

Most states aren't likely to offer a Web-based system for members of the public to draw their own congressional and legislative maps. The reason isn't disinterest or fear of public involvement. It's money.
by | July 27, 2010
 

One newsy leftover on technology and redistricting from NCSL's Annual Meeting yesterday: Most states aren't likely to offer a Web-based system for members of the public to draw their own congressional and legislative maps. The reason isn't disinterest or fear of public involvement. It's money.

A show of hands in the room (which, other than the solitary journalist, was filled with legislators and legislative staff from around the country) revealed few people who were contemplating a Web-based option. Perhaps they were just shy, but Mark Stratton of Indiana offered a compelling explanation: "The cost of an Internet-based redistricting solution," he said "would eat up half of our redistricting budget."

Stratton indicated that members of the public would likely be able to participate in the line-drawing process at state data centers, libraries or universities. But, someone sitting in her in office in Maine probably won't be able to redraw Hawaii's maps using the same data that Hawaii legislators will use.

At least, someone in Maine probably won't be able to do that with the blessing of Hawaii. There already are Web sites that allow members of the public to try their hand at redistricting (obviously without the official results of the 2010 Census). It's possible that an independent group will put the official data online in time for public participation (if anyone knows of an organization that's already planning to do that, I'd love to hear about it).

Stratton, though, expressed some trepidation about that. How will lawmakers verify the authenticity of maps produced by an interface that's different than their own?

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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