Public Mapping Project

The drawing of electoral districts is among the least transparent processes in democratic governance. All too often, redistricting authorities maintain their power by obstructing public participation. The resulting districts embody the goals of politicians to the detriment of the representational interests of communities and the public at large.

We seek to change this power balance by making it possible for the public to draw the boundaries of their communities and to generate redistricting plans for their state and localities -- through their web-browsers. The Public Mapping Project is developing District Builder, an open source software redistricting application designed to give the public transparent, accessible, and easy-to-use on-line mapping tools.

This technological innovation will enable greater public participation where redistricting authorities solicit public input. Where redistricting authorities are not responsive to the representational needs of the public, plans drawn by the public may be used as a yardstick by which to compare a redistricting authority’s plan against. And where the courts must step in when the regular redistricting process breaks down, judges will have a greater menu of options to consider.
The Public Mapping Project was a subject discussed by co-project leader Michael McDonald (left) at this July 18 Brookings forum broadcast on C-SPAN. Also pictured from left to right are Antia Earls of the South Coalition for Social Justice, Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, and David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein graciously served as judges for the Virginia Redistricting Competition.

Public Mapping Book

Want to learn more about Public Mapping? Check out our Cornell University Press book, available free for electronic download. We talk about the lessons learned from our successes and failures, the tech, and how to DIY redistricting.

2018 Brown Democracy Medal

We are honored that the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University announced the Public Mapping Project will be awarded the 2018 Brown Democracy Medal.

Sloan Foundation Support

The Sloan Foundation has generously provided $124,999 in support to update the DistrictBuilder app and to support continued data collection to prepare for the 2020 redistricting cycle.

2020 Data Collection Underway

We are collaborating with  MIT Election Science and Data Lab and on the collection and processing of precinct election results in preparation for the 2020 redistricting. We encourage persons interested in volunteering to get involved with this effort.

A more difficult data collection is precinct boundaries, which we augment with election results and overlay onto census geography so that we can assess the political effects of redistricting plans. Many states and localities simply to do publish these important boundaries. We have received two small grants from the MIT Election Science and Data Lab and the Colorado Secretary of State's office to explore the feasibility of fabricating precinct boundaries from geocoded voter files, which have voters' addresses and precinct identifiers.

Preparing for Redistricting 2020

We are preparing for the post-2020 census redistricting in the United States, with a goal to deploy web accessible software using cloud computing infrastructure for all U.S. congressional and state legislative districts. We will be updating this website with exciting updates as to our preparations and progress.

In the intervening years since the last U.S redistricting, we collaborated with colleagues at ITAM to deploy our DistrictBuilder software in Mexico. College students with no English fluency used our software to draw districts to the Mexican House of Deputies, using DistrictBuilder's internationalization features. 

Public Access to DistrictBuilder Version 1.1

All members of the public are invited to try out version 1.1 of the District Builder software. The software can be used for any state or locality. We are working on incorporating other states' data into the software and list the currently available states deployed on Amazon's web services (these states are loaded with 2010 census and election data). At this time, we are not providing web hosting. These pre-configured versions of the software can be hosted through your own Amazon Web Services account. Those interested should follow these instructions.

Subscribe to Our Developers e-Mail List

Keep up-to-date with the latest Public Mapping software development news and connect with other mappers by subscribing to our developers e-mail list. Those wishing to keep up with our latest news, please read our news feed.

Get Informed About Redistricting

A Citizens Guide to Redistricting
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law's comprehensive
Citizen's Guide to Redistricting explains the various processes and criteria that govern redistricting across the fifty states.

The Voting Rights Act
The Voting Rights Act is an important federal redistricting requirement that ensures our representatives reflect America's racial and ethnic diversity. It enjoys overwhelming bipartisan congressional support. The U.S. Department of Justice and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Redrawing the Lines are excellent sources of information about the Voting Rights Act.

Gerrymandering: A Documentary Film
The Gerrymandering documentary film lays out the pathologies of partisan gerrymandering whereby districts are drawn to favor politicians, not the public. A DVD has been released. See the Gerrymandering film website for more information.

The Redistricting Game
The University of Southern California's Game Innovation Lab has created this fun and informative redistricting simulation which teaches how redistricting works.

Americans for Redistricting Reform
Americans for Redistricting Reform is tracking redistricting related developments across the United States.

Learn more...

Learn More About Our Vision

Drs. Altman and McDonald describe where this project fits in the history of redistricting technology in this
Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy article. Also read a Washington Post opinion editorial calling for greater transparency and public participation in redistricting, based on principles articulated by the Public Mapping Project advisory board. Dr. McDonald has presented these ideas to the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Oregon State Legislature. 
Redistricting Blogs/Websites
All About Redistricting
Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group
National Conference of State Legislatures
Princeton Gerrymandering Project

Organizations Using Our Software in 2010
 AZ Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition
 CAContra Costa County
 IL Midwest Accountable Redistricting
 IN Midwest Accountable Redistricting
Draw Marion County
 MI Michigan Citizens' Redistricting Competition
Midwest Accountable Redistricting
 MN Draw Our Minnesota
Draw Our Minnesota (Local Version)
Midwest Accountable Redistricting
 OH Ohio Redistricting Competition
Midwest Accountable Redistricting
 PAFix Philly Districts
 VA Virginia Redistricting Competition
 WI Midwest Accountable Redistricting

2020 News

2020 Data Collection Underway

We are collaborating with on the collection and processing of precinct election results in preparation for the 2020 redistricting. We encourage persons interested in volunteering to get involved with this effort.

Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group

We were pleased to participate at the 2017 Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group's Boston meeting. The level of interest and energy from participants is well beyond what we experienced in public mapping this time a decade ago!