Who should read this book?
It is hoped that this guide encourages the GIS practitioner to participate in the process when possible, and it offers guidance in identifying how to do that. This guide will also be helpful to those involved in redistricting as employees of state legislatures, local governments, redistricting commissions, political parties, consulting firms, or nonprofit voting rights organizations. But other GIS experts can also contribute their skills and time either as volunteers for groups seeking to monitor and evaluate the work of the organizations charged with producing final redistricting plans for state or local communities or as independent citizens with ideas about what fair election districts should look like.
The guide is organized as follows:
- Section 1 defines redistricting.
- Section 2 makes the case for why the redistricting process is of great importance to our society and to the role that the geospatial practitioner can play in it.
- Section 3 covers the major constitutional principles and key statutes that are used to justify the legal constraints to how political boundaries are drawn.
- Section 4 describes the process at the federal, state, and local levels, including when it occurs and the scheduling of its steps, and who is responsible for drawing the boundaries.
- Section 4.4 describes the necessary and optional data, which is at the heart of the process, that are used to develop a set of districts.
- Section 4.5 identifies the important software functionalities used in the process.
- Section 5 discusses an important message of this guide: that the process of drawing political/legislative boundaries is not merely a technical one, but that decisions about those boundaries should be informed by their consequences and that, therefore, clear criteria about the objectives in the process should be explicitly understood.
- Section 5.1 discusses the federally mandated criteria that every redistricting process requires.
- Section 5.2 covers the use of other, widely-used criteria by states for congressional and state legislative districting.
- Section 5.3 discusses fairness criteria used to evaluate proposed districts.
- Section 5.4 provides references and links to reliable sources on the current rules and processes in each state.
- Section 6 builds on the criteria and processes of redistricting by framing them from an ethical perspective. The GISP Code of Ethics should be considered by those involved.
- Section 7 discusses ways that the public and GIS practitioner can participate in the process. URISA supports the value of public engagement in governmental
and related planning and public service activities (see the work of colleagues in the field of Public Participation GIS), and the use of GIS technologies for drawing election boundaries is no exception.
- Section 8 recognizes that nothing in the political realm stays the same for very long, providing a description of recent and trending changes to how the process is done across the United States.
- Section 9 provides final thoughts.
A supplement offers some insights into the various specific software system choices available for redistricting, including stand-alone, enterprise, and web-based systems.