Now you can draw state redistricting maps too

The new Texas congressional redistricting map is seen August 9, 2003 in Austin, Texas. The map was re-drawn by state legislators to allow Republicans to win more congressional seats in the U.S. Congress.

We talk to Kimball Brace of Election Data Services, a longtime consultant on reapportionment, who says that modern software is able to crunch many different types of data, including ethnicity, income, and population density. Since new districts are drawn up with some consideration as to politics, voting records are also entered into the equation for politicians who want to gerrymander their maps.

It's pretty different, says Brace, from the old days when he used to cover a two-story wall with a massive map and then use ladders, acetate overlays, punch cards, and a computer rented from a bank.

Dr. Michael P. McDonald of George Mason University has developed an open source browser-based web tool called District Builder. It's kind of like a video game: you can draw your own districts and try to balance out the populations just like the legislatures must. Many states accept citizen plans as part of the deliberative process. And even if yours doesn't, McDonald believes some knowledge and transparency would be a good thing in what can be an opaque process.

Also in this program, the latest installment of The Age Of The Jetsons May Be Upon Us as robot maids head out to clean your bathroom.

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