PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of their Public Mapping Project, Dr. Michael P. McDonald of George Mason University and Dr. Micah Altman, Senior Research Scientist at Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Science, have teamed up with Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, to develop District Builder (http://www.publicmapping.org/resources/software), an open source, web-based redistricting application. The software is designed to give the public access to online redistricting tools and can be configured to redistrict any state or locality within the United States.
Every ten years, city council, state legislature and congressional district boundaries must be redrawn to reflect the nation's growing and shifting population. Legislators and political consultants shift district boundaries according to their own political interests, often at the expense of the citizens they represent. The Public Mapping Project's District Builder enables redistricting authorities to solicit public input and open government watchdog groups to allow the public to generate redistricting plans for their state and localities. Users select blocks, tracts, counties, or other geographies, and assign them to districts. As districts are edited, users view demographic information, population count and other statistics. They can save their plans, share them with others, and generate summary reports.
The code can be downloaded and installed on an organization's servers or run using Amazon.com hosting infrastructure. The Public Mapping Project's website lists instructions for accessing the software at: www.publicmapping.org/resources/software. Several organizations have committed to using the software. The Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University and the Public Mapping Project are sponsoring the Virginia College and University Legislative Redistricting Competition, which will utilize District Builder: www.varedistrictingcompetition.org. The Midwest Democracy Network will host instances of the software for use by its member organizations. Later in February, Azavea will launch a local version for Philadelphia, demonstrating how District Builder can be used at the local level.
Azavea is no stranger to political and redistricting projects. In 2009, the firm released "Redistricting The Nation" (www.redistrictingthenation.com), a website providing the public with better information about the legislative redistricting process and tools that encourage fair representation and competitive elections.
The Public Mapping Project is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Judy Ford Wason Center at Christopher Newport University.
Azavea is an award-winning geospatial analysis (GIS) software development firm specializing in the creation of location-based web and mobile solutions, as well as geospatial analysis services to enhance decision-making. Visit http://www.azavea.com
About the Public Mapping Project
The Public Mapping Project is comprised of a coalition of people who believe that democracy works best when the public is engaged. The principal investigators of the project are Dr. Michael McDonald and Dr. Micah Altman. Visit http://www.publicmapping.org/