It’s Your Turn To Try Your Hand At Redistricting
Michael A. Smith, Insight Kansas
It’s redistricting time again. Do you think you can draw better districts than the Kansas Legislature does? Try it! Today, we’re announcing the first-ever Insight Kansas Redistricting Contest.
California, Iowa, and a handful of other states now trust this power to nonpartisan, citizens’ redistricting commissions. Here, the Kansas Legislature will draw the new districts in early 2012. The capitol “buzz” I’ve heard predicts that Kansas’ four incumbent U.S. House members will each draw his or her own proposed, new district and submit it the state legislature, who have the final say. If the process proceeds as usual, we are likely to get four “safe seats,” drawn not only for, but by the incumbents, to insure their easy re-election.
It’s your turn. Redistricting no longer requires specialized and expensive computer programs. Dave Bradlee, a Seattle-based computer mapping consultant and former Microsoft employee, has created Dave’s Redistricting, a free (and nonprofit) program that allows anyone with a computer and Internet connection to draw his or her own, proposed new districts down to the precinct level. Citizens in California and Washington state used Dave’s to draw rough drafts of their own proposed maps and submit them to their states’ redistricting commissions. Now it’s time to give Dave’s a try in Kansas.
To enter, you’ll need a relatively up-to-date computer, Internet connection, and web browser with the Microsoft Silverlight “plug in,” available free for Windows and Mac users. Go to http://gardow.com/davebradlee/redistricting/launchapp.html, and launch Dave’s Redistricting. Dave’s features many different menus and features, so you’ll want to allow yourself at least an hour or two to just “play around” and familiarize yourself with it, before making your final map. As you draw, Dave’s will keep track of population and demographics, using the latest census data.
Export your final map to your computer’s hard drive, then e-mail it to us as an attachment, at KansasDistricts@gmail.com. Please add a one-page discussion of how your new districts meet the following criteria:
Districts must be of [nearly] equal population to comply with the US Constitution.
Districts must comply with the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minorities have an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.
Districts must be contiguous so that all parts of the district are connected to each other.
Districts must respect the boundaries of cities, counties, neighborhoods and communities of Interest, and minimize their division, to the extent possible.
Districts should be geographically compact, that is, have a fairly regular shape.
Districts shall not be drawn to favor or discriminate against an incumbent, candidate, or political party. (source: California’s Voters First Act: http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/faq.html)
If you’re feeling ambitious, you might also try your hand at drawing the forty Kansas state senate districts– we will consider those maps as well.
Our three-judge, politically-balanced Insight Kansas panel will award a grand prize, a runner-up, and an honorable mention. Each of the three will receive one free, six-month subscription to your choice of any Kansas newspaper which carries our Insight Kansas columns. Each will also be invited to join a few of us IK columnists in Topeka this January, where we will present your maps to the state house and senate redistricting committees. Finally, I will mention the names of the winners (unless you prefer anonymity) and describe your maps in a future column. Then, after the legislature passes their final maps, I plan yet another column in which I will describe the new official maps by comparing them to your contest entries. The deadline for entries is December 15th. Questions may be directed to us at KansasDistricts@gmail.com.
Ready… set… redistrict! Let’s make sure your voices are heard before the final maps are drawn.