Drawing Your Plan (Version 1.2)

After you have selected a plan to edit or view, you are directed to the Draw tab. Here, you see tools for managing what you see in the map layers, editing districts, manipulating districts, and district statistics. All of these are important features to understand as they will enable you to draw a legal redistricting plan.

Map Legend

Perhaps the first thing you may notice about your map is that districts are colored. Closer examination reveals that the counties and other geographies that underlay the districts are also shaded. These colors are intended to provide you with clues and tools that enable you to draw legal redistricting plans.

The Map Legend button on the lower right corner of the map provides a legend of the information displayed about the districts and the underlying geography. This information is described below in more detail. Essentially, there is information about the underlying geographies that you are creating districts out of and information about the districts themselves.

Map Layers

The district boundaries and boundaries of the underlying geographies they are drawn out of are known as Map Layers. Although not immediately visible when you first begin editing districts, you can overlay additional reference layers such as community maps and other redistricting plans. You can configure the map layers by clicking on the Set Map Layers icon.

Clicking on the Set Map Layers icon reveals the Choose Map Layers popup window. You have the following options

Shading the Underlying Editable Geography

The first pull down box in the Choose Map Layers dialog box allows you to change how the editable geographies are shaded. By default, counties and other editable geographies are often shaded by their total population. The same is true for any other editable geographies such as census tracts, census blocks, or precincts and wards (the available geography is determined by the administrator). The allowable shadings will vary with the available data in each state and it is possible to turn off the shadings by selecting "None" which may be useful if you wish to create printable maps.

Typically, the underlying geography may be shaded by census and political data. In the example given here for a version of the software used in Virginia:

Keep in mind that there is a lot of racial, ethnic, and political data that can be made available. These are illustrative examples used for a redistricting competition in Virginia.

You can see what the shading for the geographies means by clicking the Map Legend button in the lower right hand corner of the map editing area.

Shading the Districts

The second pull down box in the Choose Map Layers dialog box allows you to change how the districts are shaded. By default, districts are usually shaded by their total population -- and how close they are to the ideal population for that legislative body. (The ideal population is the total population of the state divided by the number of districts in the legislative body.) The administrator may enable districts to be shaded by other values, such as the districts' compactness and contiguity status. You may also choose to have no shading for the districts, which may be useful if you wish to create printable maps).

The map above illustrates how districts may be shaded. Here, districts are shaded by how close their total population is to the ideal district population. The gold (or blue) colored districts are above the ideal population, with darker colors indicating that the districts are further from the ideal. A district that is not shaded is within the population tolerance set by the administrator.

You can see what the shading for the districts means by clicking the Map Legend button in the lower right hand corner of the map editing area.

Show Reference Layers

Reference layers are geographies that can be displayed, but cannot be used directly to edit districts. You can follow the boundaries of reference layers by selecting editable geography contained within them, so they can be useful to guide you indirectly during your map making. A reason why reference layers cannot be used to directly edit districts is that that they are not guaranteed to be nested within the hierarchical geographies of the database. Allowing editing of non-nested geographies would significantly slow the performance of the software.

There are two types of reference layers, those that are editable geographies and those that are of other existing maps, be they redistricting plans or community layers.

Show Reference Layers - Editable Geographies

When zoomed in, lower levels of geography will appear for editing, for example, counties, census tracts, precincts, and census blocks. The boundaries for geographies other than the one currently editable can be displayed by choosing the available geographies in the third pull down box Choose a Reference Layer in the Choose Map Layers dialog window. The administrator selects the available reference layers for viewing.

Show Reference Layers - Legislative Districts or Community Maps

Other legislative districts or community maps can be displayed as reference layers by clicking on the Choose a: legislative district or community map reference layer button in the Choose Map Layers dialog window. Clicking this button will reveal a file manager that is similar in character to the plan chooser. From here, you can select a redistricting plan for a legislative body or a community map that either you are privately working on or that other users have shared.

To select a reference layer for display, choose one of the available map types on the Select Plan Type drop drown box. Usually these will be congressional plans, state legislative plans, and community maps. By default, congressional plans will be typically displayed.

Once you have selected a plan type, the Select Plan to Display as Reference Layer will populate with the available plans.  The plans can be sorted by the user name and plan name by clicking on the column headers, and you use the navigation buttons at the bottom of the plan list to display additional plans.

When you are satisfied with the shading of your map editing environment and the layer that you wish to display, click on the OK button to return to mapping.

If you have selected a reference layer, its name will be displayed in the Road Display Dialog Box located in the upper right hand corner of the mapping area.

Zoom and Pan Tools

The geographic layer that you can edit is tied to the zoom level. When zoomed far out, only counties will be visible for editing. As you zoom in other editable geography will become available, such as census tracts, Voting Tabulation Districts (a generic term for precincts, wards, election districts, etc.), and census blocks. We tie the editable layer to the zoom level since this avoids the problem of showing the many census blocks for an entire state -- the amount of data involved would slow the program considerably.

Pan Tool

To move the view area in a north/south/east/west direction, use the pan tool located in the upper left hand corner of the mapping area.

You may also use the mouse to pan. To do so

Zoom Tools

There are three ways to change your zoom level.

Zoom Slider Tool

To zoom in about out using the zoom slider tool located in the upper left hand corner of the mapping area, click on the plus or minus sign to zoom in or out, respectively. Or, click on the slider and move it to the desired zoom level.

Map Extant Tool

To quickly change your zoom level to the entire jurisdiction, click the round icon at the center of the pan tool.

Marquis Zoom Tool

This is perhaps the most useful zoom tool, and there is no associated icon to tell you it exists. To quickly zoom to an area using the marquis zoom tool:

Road Display

Displayed underneath the districts, editable geographies, and reference layers is a map layer of roads, cities, and other features that provides helpful context to a mapping session. The administrator may make various maps available to you: Open Street Map (or osm), Google Maps, and Bing Maps. Select a preferred street map by clicking on the appropriate button on the Road Display Dialog Box located in the upper right hand corner of the mapping area. There are licensing restrictions on Google and Bing, so your administrator may choose not to make these street maps available.

You can increase or decrease the transparency level of the districts and the editable geographies by moving the roads transparency slider in the Road Display Dialog Box.

If you have selected a reference layer, its name will be displayed in the Road Display Dialog Box.

Map Tool Sets

There are two sets of mapping tools available in two tabs at the top of the mapping area. The Map Editing tools are for selecting and assigning editable geographies to districts. The District Tools are additional mapping utilities. Select tool set by clicking on the desired tab.

There are four tools that are available in either tool set, the Pan Tool and Info Tool, which are for navigating around the map.

The Pan Tool

You can move your map view with the pan tool. Select the hand icon, click and hold down the mouse button, and move the cursor.

The Info Tool

The Info Tool allows you to click on an editable geography and see it's name and the census and political data associated with it.

Undo/Redo Edit

Any edit can be undone by using the Undo/Redo Tool. The icon on the left will undo an edit and the icon on the right will redo an edit. If an edit is made after an undo action is performed, the redo action will no longer be available. Undo of multiple edits is allowed.

Map Editing Tool Set

The Map Editing tools are for selecting and assigning editable geographies to districts. The mapping task is divided into two steps. First, editable geographies are selected and second they are assigned to districts. There are two different types of tools for this task, selection tools and assignment tools. While selection and assignment tools can be simultaneously selected, it is important to remember these are two different types of tools. If the software appears to be behaving unexpectedly, it can be often useful to review the selection and assignment tools.

Select Tools

The three Select Tools enable you to select geographies for assignment to a district. You can select individual editable geographies or collections of editable geographies, depending on which tool you use. If you attempt to select a large number of geographies with any selection tool, you will receive an error message to select fewer geographies.

When working at the census block level, it is often easy to select (and fail to select) many geographically small zero-population road and water segments, so be careful when working at this level. Often, a clue that something has happened is that you will be warned that a district is non-contiguous. We provide additional District Tools to help you with this, what can be at times, tedious task.

The Single Select Tool

The Single Select tool allows you to select a single piece of geography for assignment by clicking on it. To do so:

By holding down "shift" while you click, you may add more geographies to your selection.

The Rectangle Select Tool

The Rectangle Select Tool allows you to select a group of geographies for assignment. To do so:

The Polygon Select Tool

The Polygon Select tool allows you to select a group of geographies for assignment. To do so:

Assignment Tools

The heart of mapping is assigning selected geographies to a district. There are two methods that we use to perform this task, the Anchor District assignment tool and the Click and Drag assignment tool. The District Anchor Assigning Tool is also the tool that we use to create new districts, if there are still empty slots. The number of district slots is set by the administrator and typically will not exceed the maximum number of districts for a particular legislative body one is drawing districts for.

The District Anchor Assignment Tool

The District Anchor assignment tool acts like a paint brush. Any geography that is selected is automatically assigned to the district the anchor is associated with.

You may associate the District Anchor with three different types of "districts"

To associate the Anchor with a district

The Click and Drag Tool

The Click and Drag assignment tool allows the user to "grab" any selected geography and "drag" it into the district that one wishes to assign it to. To do so:

A common error occurs when you drop the geography back into the district it is currently assigned to. When this happens, you will receive the message "No Districts Updated."

Creating a New District

Sometimes people prefer starting from a blank map or are working for a partially completed map, perhaps because they have removed a district in a slow growing area of a state. The Anchor District assignment tool can be used to create a new district. To create a new district, you must have a free district number to assign to.

You can create a free district number by three methods:

In the example above, District 6 is available for assignment. To assign geography to a new District 6, perform the following steps:

District Tools Set

The District Tools set may be accessed by selecting the District Tools tab. These are utility tools that may be helpful to map editing.

The Lock District Tool

The Lock District tool allows you to click on a district and toggle it between being locked and unlocked. No changes may be made to a locked district. Locked districts are highlighted in red. This is tool is useful when a good district has been created and you want to make ensure no inadvertent changes are made to it.

The Lock District tool can also be useful to quickly select editable geography that has been split by districts. For example, if you wish to assign the portion of a county split by two districts, lock one of the two districts and select the county. Only the unlocked geography within the county will be selected.

The Lock District tool can sometimes be useful to find stray non-contiguous pieces of districts. The red outline of locked districts may be more visible than the unlocked gold colored outline. A highlight district tool is similarly useful for this purpose.

The Lock District can cause delays in selecting editable geographies. When a geography is selected that includes or is bounded by one or more locked districts, the software must identify all intersecting geographies with the locked district. If you notice significant slowing, you may want to unlock adjoining districts, if possible.

The District Info Tool

The District Info tool shows the district number of the selected district. The District Info tool is useful when district labels are not be visible or readily apparent, particularly when zoomed in.

The Unassign District Tool

The Unassign District tool allows you to unassign an entire district. This is useful when used in conjunction when creating a new district using the Anchor District tool or when using the district Copy and Paste tool, which both require an unassigned "slot" to copy a district into.

The District Copy and Paste Tool

The Copy and Paste tool allows you to copy an entire district from a plan you are able to view -- any plan you can see in the Template, Shared, or My Plans file listings.

There are two important steps before attempting to copy and paste a district.

If you have an empty district slot available, you are presented with the following menu when you click the Copy and Paste icon:

There are three steps to copying and pasting a district.

When the Copy and Paste tool is invoked the copied district will overwrite any district in the target plan that is not locked using the Lock District tool. Often, there will be unassigned geography left over after a Copy and Paste procedure is completed. We recommend that you assign these geographies soon after a completing a Copy and Paste as you may otherwise forget about them.

You can undo any edit, including one using the Copy and Paste tool, using the Undo tool.

Identifying Splits

You may wish to draw a plan that minimizes the number of times districts split geographies, such as counties, communities, or districts for other legislative bodies. The Show Splits and Generate Splits Report are useful tools to draw districts that or any boundary that can be shown as a reference layer.

Show Splits

If a reference layer has been selected using the Map Layers, clicking the Show Splits icon will visually show all districts that split the selected reference layer. The districts will be highlighted in blue on the map and the statistics sidebar. You can remove the blue highlights by clicking on the district on the statistics sidebar.

Generate Splits Report

Clicking the Generate Splits Report icon will invoke the Splits Report dialog box. The Generate Splits Report creates a list of all the geographies split by each district, with some options described below.

Select Reference Layer for Report (Required)

Up to three reference layers can compared against the current plan's districts to identify splits. By default, counties and one lower layer such as census tracts or VTDs (i.e., precincts and wards -- the Census Bureau generically calls these Voting Tabulation Districts or VTDs), are available for a splits report. If a reference layer has been selected using the Map Layers, the reference layer will also be available for a splits report.

You must select a reference layer to generate a report.

Reverse Splits Detection (Optional)

Checking the reverse splits detection box will produce a report of the districts that split each reference layer geography, instead of the the reference layers that split districts. In the example, above, a list of each congressional district splitting a State Senate district would be generated.

Extended Report (Optional)

By default, the Splits Report generates a list of the split geographies only. Checking the extended report will generate a report of all geographies contained within a district, both fully contained and and partially contained within each district. In this report, split geographies are highlighted in red and an asterisk is placed next to the geography name. Geographies that are not split are displayed in black.

The extended report requires two queries, one to identify split geography and one to identify non-split geography. The extended report may thus take significantly longer amount of time to run.

Generate a Report

When you are satisfied with your selection, click the Generate Report button to produce the report.

Close Window

To exit, click the close dialog window "x" in the upper right hand corner of the dialog box. 

Highlighting Districts

Districts can be highlighted in blue by clicking on the district on the Statistics sidebar on the right hand side of the mapping screen. Highlighting districts may be useful to identify small non-contiguous pieces of geography that often occur when working at the census block level.