Public Mapping Project
Frequently Asked Questions

I belong to an organization interested using the software in my state. What should I do?
I'm an educator, how do I use the software in my class?
How does the software work?
Which web-browser works best with the software?
How much does the software cost?
What does it mean that the software is a "prototype"?
How do I use this software? Is there any user help?
I'd like to run the software in my state, how do I get the software?
I have to administer the software myself?
Where do I get state data?

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?

We are developing educational materials to faciltiate adoption of the software as a class project. For example, we are aiding a group of private individuals in Virginia to hold a redistricting competition among the state's public universities (if interested, please contact Quentin Kidd at Christian Newport University). Please contact us and we will keep you informed about developments in your state.

How does the software work?

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

Which web-browser works best with the software?

We have designed the software to run on Mozilla's FireFox, which is a freely available web browser. You may obtain and install the software by visiting the FireFox website. We plan to improve compatibility with other web browsers in the future.

How much does the software cost?

The software is free. However, the software must be hosted on a web server, which may incurr 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. We discuss web hosting pricing issues in more detail here.

What does it mean that the software is a "prototype"?

The prototype software is not our final product. The purpose of the prototype is to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept of drawing of redistricting plans through a web browser. Indeed, this prototype could be used by an expert to create a legal redistricting plan in states that impose few redistricting criteria. We plan to carry this project forward so that by early 2011, the software can be used easily by the general public. We want to let people know about the anticipated availability of the software so that they may plan to use it. And, we want feedback so that as we continue to develop the software we can create something that is useful for their planned purposes. We are currently seeking funds to produce a fully functional final product.

How do I use this software? Is there any user help?

The software is designed to be intuitive to the novice user, for someone who is familar with on-line mapping programs offered by Google and Bing. At this time, the only limited user help can be found by hovering the cursor over a button. We plan to create additional help to teach users how to use the software and how to draw legal redistricting plans.

I'd like to run the software in my state, how do I get the software?

To create an instance of the software for your use, you need to create an account on Amazon and copy the software into your account. We currently provide test data from Ohio. If you wish to explore another state, you need to import that state's data. We discuss these setup steps in more detail here.

I have to administer the software myself?

As of now, yes. We are seeking support to centrally administer the software for all fifty states so that organizations interested in using the software can focus more on drawing maps and less on adminstering a web site.

Where do I get state data?

State geographical and population data are available from the Census Bureau Redistricting Data Program. In 2000, some states provided these data, too. Some states further provided election data merged with census data. We are anticipate these states will provide these enhanced data again in 2011. Where they do not, a parallel data collection project is underway to provide election data merged with census data. We will describe where these data may be found as they become available. The Census Bureau has indicated they will release 2010 population data beginning in late February, 2011 through April 1, 2011.