Redistricting tools

In order to impact decennial redistricting, advocacy groups often try to draw “proposed” maps. These maps attempt to meet numerous constraints, including fair representation for minorities; “compactness” of a district; projected partisan performance (i.e., likely partisan lean of a given district); and compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The tools that could help with such processes include:

  • A historical database of election results at the precinct level (such as that provided by Civera), especially matched to demographic data from the Census.
  • Software to readily evaluate Voting Rights Act compliance for a proosed map.
  • Optical scanning software to convert election result PDFs provided by some localities into machine-readable data.

The business model for such tools is quite difficult, because they are only likely to be used by a small handful of groups once every ten years or so. Some states have mid-decade redistricting for state legislative seats, and it’s possible that targeting such states is a good first step toward financial sustainability.

A different suite of tools could be brought to bear in the cycle or two leading up to redistricting (i.e. 2026 and 2028), to assist funders with decisions about “best ROI” for electoral campaigns. These tools would take into account a variety of factors, including:

  • The existing redistricing process in each state (e.g., whether redistricting is done by a nonpartisan board, whether the governor participates in redistricting, etc.);
  • The election calendars for key officeholders (including state legislators, the governor, etc.);
  • The existing partisan lean of a state’s congressional delegation and state legislative chambers;
  • Any ballot initiatives that may impact redistricting

Such tools would likely target organizations like the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, and others.

Adam Kincaid discusses some ideas related to the above in his Business of Politics interview, at 20:20, as well as some useful background information at 12:43.