Frequently Asked Questions

How does the software work?

The software runs over the Internet. The software is hosted on a web server. People access the software using their web browsers.

We have created a specific redistricting tool, not a general geographic information systems software. The software is designed to be intuitive to the novice user, for someone who is familiar with on-line mapping programs offered by Google and Bing. It has specific tools that help guide users to create legal redistricting plans and we have social networking features that allow users to share and compare their plans.

Is there a user guide?

Yes. The user guide is available here. We are working on training videos.

Which web-browser works best with the software?

We have designed the software to run on the most recent versions of commonly-used browsers. However, recommend that you use Mozilla's FireFox, which is a freely available web browser, available one the Firefox website. We recommend using Firefox because it has robust self-updating tools.

Help! I have a problem.

Step 1. We highly recommend that you use the Firefox web browser. We have discovered that many common user problems are related to older versions of other web browsers.

Step 2. Read the user guide.

Step 3. If switching or updating your browser or reviewing the user guide does not solve your problem
, then there are two options. If you are using a version of the software supported by one of our partners, then we recommend that you contact them directly, as they may have someone dedicated to answering user questions and can provide you with robust user support. You may also contact us at the Public Mapping Project, but understand that we have limited resources and are providing support to the entire country.

How much does the software cost?

The software is free. However, the software must be hosted on a web server, which may incur hosting costs. We developed the software to run on Amazon's EC2 cloud servers. The advantage of using Amazon's cloud servers is that someone wishing to run the software only needs to pay for web hosting costs consistent with their needs. Someone administering the software in a small state, with a limited number of users, for a short amount of time, may not need to spend as much on web hosting as someone administering the software in a large state, with a large number of users, for a long period of time. You can even turn the software on and off, and only pay for the time it is turned on. There are also minimal data storage costs. We discuss web hosting pricing issues in more detail here.

Do I have to administer the software myself?

This depends on which state you wish to draw districts for and who you are. Partner organizations are doing the heavy lifting of administering the software so that the public can access it in some states. We post links to these organizations on our home page. If you wish to use the software for education purposes, we Amazon Web Services for Education has provided us with free web hosting for education purposes only -- for example, using the software in a class or research project. Please contact us if you would like to apply for this service.

I belong to an organization interested using the software in my state. What should I do?

We have been in contact with national and state-based organizations and private individuals across the country who share our vision of facilitating greater public participation in the redistricting process. Please contact us if you are interested in a partnership or working with other organizations or private individuals in your state and we will connect you with a coalition, if one exists.

I'm an educator, how do I use the software in my class?

With support from Amazon Web Services in Education. We provide access to instances of the software

What features do you plan to add to the software?

We are funded to add additional features to enhance the software. These include:
  • Adding more geography that one can view; for example, city boundaries, current districts, and communities of interest (where available).
  • Enable community mapping features.
  • Enable user commenting.
  • Create polishing tools to do final touch-ups on redistricting plans.

Where do I get state data?

We provide detailed descriptions of the data and access to databases we have constructed to use with our software here.