Last week's release of detailed data by the U.S. Census means redistricting has started in earnest in Texas. In the coming months, proposals will start surfacing of how to redraw the state's political boundaries.
In Sunday's paper, we took a look at how technology has reinvented the redistricting process over the last 50 years, starting with the first efforts to use computers to automate redistricting back in the 1960s. The automation never panned out but, by 1990, much of the process had moved over to computers.
This year, free online tools like Dave's Redistricting App and the Public Mapping Project will make it easier for the public to try their hand at redistricting states. In Austin, the Texas Legislative Council also plans to set up public workstations installed with the same redistricting software lawmakers are using.
But no online redistricting program for Texas will be as simple and fun as the one the Des Moines Register has created for Iowa. The newspaper's application not only lets users redraw the state's congressional districts, which need to shrink from five to four, but the online map conveniently pinpoints the homes of Iowa's sitting congressmen, giving political junkies the chance to decide which two incumbents they want to see duke it out for survival in a future election.
Don't expect to see a Texas redistricting program this easy to use. Iowa law prevents congressional districts from dividing up counties. Such is not the case in Texas, where redistricting battles routinely drill down to the street level. That means a digital redistricting program for Texas must be much more detailed and, subsequently, more complicated.
Here's my proposed map for the Hawkeye State. Took me all of five minutes.
You're welcome, Iowa.