We have created our software in accordance to the principles for transparency articulated by our advisory board and with the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. We have not created a full-service Geographic Information System, rather we have created a tool for the specific purpose of drawing districts and community maps. We have made the interface to appear familiar to someone who uses on-line mapping programs for directions. Redistricting is a complex process, so we simplify this process as much as possible by providing tools and visual cues to help a novice draw a legal redistricting plan.
The software is currently in a prototype or "Alpha" version stage. We are releasing the prototype to demonstrate that we have successfully created the software's core components, to generate interest in using the software, and to solicit feedback from potential users about what they would like the software to do.
We have made significant progress towards creating a fully functional easy-to-use redistricting application, and we are continuing software development. We plan to add additional features such as: integrated training materials on how to draw legal redistricting plans and how to use the software, commenting features, high quality maps for use in publications, and features to enable redistricting competitions.
We plan to release new versions of the software and make announcements about related advancements, as warranted. We are confident that we will release (pending funding) a fully operational version by the end of Februrary, 2011 when the Census Bureau begins to release the redistricting population data.
The software is free and it is open-source. The software must be hosted on a web server, which may incur web hosting costs. We have designed the software so it can be deployed on Amazon's EC2 cloud servers. We will soon describe how to create your own instance of the software for your use.
Detailed installation and administration instructions will be provided in a readme file accompanying the software.
We have a strong commitment to open-source programming principles. As such the software code is available for public inspection. We encourage knowledgable programmers to contribute to the project.
The source code for the mapping software is available at SourceForge.
The software interfaces with a redistricting analysis engine called BARD, authored by Dr. Altman and Dr. McDonald. The BARD source code is available at SourceForge. The software can be automatically installed in the R statistical package.
We use Ohio's 2000 census data to demonstrate the software. We chose Ohio as our test case because it is a large state with complex geography and significant minority populations. The software can be used for any state, once the appropriate data are loaded into it.
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.