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Advocate to Lawmakers: Using the Internet, Making Better Maps, Is 'Kind Of What We're Paying You For'

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, June 23 2011

Bay County American Civil Liberties Union President Bill Pritchard, speaking at a redistricting hearing in Bay County, Fla., that had maps of the current districts but no proposed districts as they would be for the next ten years:

"If anybody can use the internet to draw a map, why can't you use the internet to draw a map so we can see what your intentions are?"

This year, with the results of the decennial U.S. Census in hand, states around the country are redrawing the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts. In Florida, lawmakers are embarked on a listening tour — ostensibly to collect citizen input on how those districts should look. Apparently, though, groups in Bay County think a few soon-to-be-outdated maps on a table just won't cut it in the Internet age. WJHG's Erica Rakow pulls in money quotes one after the other:

"This is kind of what we're paying you for and so as our governor so succinctly said, let's get to work on it," said Jamie Shepard with the League of Women Voter’s.

The Florida League of Women's Voters has been extremely critical of this process.

"It's time for the legislature to get their staff together, draw the maps, and put these maps in front of the people of Florida so they can comment on these maps and not have an empty listening tour," said [the] President of the Florida League of Women’s Voters.

Which is a bit startling to hear, because the Florida House of Representatives has already delivered Shepard's money's worth — they have a web-based application in place, MyDistrictBuilder, that allows users to build their own redistricting maps. Built on Microsoft Silverlight, the application is not quite finished yet. The interface is both clunky and intimidating. That said, it is a direct window into the process that the legislature has already built.