Draw your own House, Senate and Congressional districts today!
Thanks to the New Organizing Institute newsletter for sending this one out.
During the College Democrats of RI convention in early May, I spoke to how this redistricting season is going to be really exciting. For the first time ever, anyone with an internet connection will be able to compete with the State House consultants to draw the new district maps.
A couple of months passed, and I still hadn’t gotten my hands on a clean dataset and a free and accessible tool to play around with it. As I understand it, Rhode Island was one of the few states to a) ask for the Census data from the Feds without precinct level data, and b) decide to pay our consultants to draw new precinct lines, in addition to ward, municipal, legislative and congressional districts. That gives us a more opaque, and more expensive process.
The tool here, Dave’s Redistricting application, has several things going for it, but also a few shortcomings. It’s free, it’s intuitive, it processes data quickly and smoothly on the laptop I’m sitting at. You set the number of districts, whether congressional, or legislative, and color in the Census block groups you’re allocating, and it keeps a running total by population.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enhanced with the voter file, so you can’t compare it against party affiliation, primary voters, or even general registration numbers. The other downside is that the finest grain available is Census block group, where I believe that Election Data Services may have access to block level data.
Expect several meetings over the fall for public input as we draw us some new maps, though no set number or other criteria are mentioned in H6096. The ProJo says:
If all goes as planned, the commission would start meeting this summer, holding public hearings across the state as it reviews the options for new district lines, which would be submitted to the General Assembly by Jan. 15, 2012. The Assembly would then vote on the new boundaries, which would be in place for the November 2012 election.
States are required to redistrict every 10 years, using the latest U.S. Census data to uphold the principle of one-person, one-vote, by making sure congressional and legislative districts are equal in population.
The Assembly has budgeted $1.5 million for Rhode Island’s latest redistricting. Of that amount, $692,240 will go to Election Data Services, with the rest being set aside for potential lawsuits, according to House spokesman Larry Berman.
Ideally, of course, the new boundaries would be in place not just for the November 2012 general election, but also the September primary, and the June filing deadline for candidates.