Redistricting: Online Mapping Tool

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The Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition has launched an online mapping tool and a redistricting competition that lets the public try its hand at redrawing Arizona’s political boundaries. Learn more about it from co-chairs of the Coalition, Roberta Voss and Ken Clark.

Ted Simons: Think you can redraw Arizona's political boundaries to beat federal requirement and make them more competitive? Now's your chance. This week Arizona's competitive districts coalition launched a mapping tool, along with a contest that involves putting the mapping tool too use. Here to talk about it are the cochairs of the coalition and former state lawmakers, Roberta Voss a Republican, and democrat Ken Clark. Thank you both for being here, appreciate it.

Roberta Voss: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good see you again. A public mapping contest. What are we talking about here?

Roberta Voss: We're talking about an online platform for anyone in Arizona, in fact anyone in the United States who's interested in redistrict Arizona's legislative and congressional districts to go online and give us their input. Actually draw the lines for our districts for the next decade's elections.

Ted Simons: How did this get started? Where did the idea come from?

Ken Clark: Some of us have been working on redistricting for many years. Because we believed that the last time we did this we did a terrible job. No offense to the commissioners, I think they did the best they corks but there were certain elements of the process that made it very difficult. I think what is significant here is that 10 years ago if you wanted to be involved in the process, and really draw those maps, you had to pay $1500 for software, and have another thousand dollars worth of training. What we've been able to put together is a free mapping tool. It's not free to build, we're still -- we have to raise money to get it up there, but it is free to the public. And you can share your ideas, you can save what you've done, you can let other people download your ideas and spin off of your ideas.

Ted Simons: Again, this particular -- is this a way for people to see how the process is done, can be done, should be done if they were involved?

Roberta Voss: All of the above. And the most exciting thing to leapfrog off what Ken just said, we just launched this program, and we already have 60 users. And that may not seem like a lot, but that's 10 fold more than what we had 10 years ago. In terms of active participation from stakeholders in this process. So it's fabulous for high school students to get on and learn about redistricting, college students, retirement communities, any community in the state of Arizona can participate in this.

Ted Simons: And this is a contest as well here. And describe for us what the contest involves, how do you play, and what do you win?

Ken Clark: Well, one of our partners is the Arizona league of women voters. And under their guidance we've put together a panel of three judges. And at the end of this month, actually June 6th, we'll close the contest. So we've just opened the contest as of today, it closes June 6th. We'll have some kind of an awards ceremony on June 14th, on flag day. Now, the idea is to have this panel of judges, they'll look at the maps, Roberta and I will not. We're old political hacks, right, so we're suspect immediately. We're not going to see those lines. We are in this for the principle. We think you can create a better number of competitive districts. People can get on, they can submit those by the deadline, that panel of judges will have a look at it, and they'll pick two of the best maps for both legislative and congressional.

Ted Simons: What would be considered a best map? What's the criteria? What are you looking for?

Roberta Voss: You're Looking at the six different criteria for redistricting. And so what they're going to be looking nature particular with four of the criteria, who gets closest to the numbers. So the closest number of competitive districts, the closest number of community of interest districts, the closest number of compact districts, the closest number of equal population districts. So they're really looking at the criteria and seeing who achieved the greatest closeness of these criteria. So this contest was run in Virginia recently. And there were actually several that came very close, and in fact in one of the criteria components, there were two competitors who came within one voter of meeting the criteria it was pretty fascinating.

Ted Simons: I want to talk about this mapping tool in a second, but I don't remember hearing you say what I would win if I win the contest.

Ken Clark: I'm glad you brought that up. Because while we've been fund-raising to get the mapping tool in there, we're still looking for partners and companies, organization who would be willing to help us get those prizes out there. Right now if you win, you go to coffee with me, which isn't all that exciting I suppose. But what we'd like to do, we'd like someone to come up and help us give away some free round trip tickets to somewhere. We think that's very possible. We're a small band of do-gooders and we're doing the best we can, so we know we'll be able to come up with something. We've been able to do this so far.

Roberta Voss: And, the ultimate goal is to get the map in front of the commission. So they can see that in fact the criteria can be met without the political influences that we've typically seen in the past.

Ted Simons: The impact -- I know geographic and town boundaries have to be at play, along with competitiveness. There is a still a bit of a controversy, a disagreement as to what should be more important. Competitive districts, or districts that stay true to their nature, how do you see that?

Roberta Voss: I became involved with Ken in this project because I believe in competitiveness. And that is a greater portion of our platform. Although the software can be used for anyone to meet any of the six criteria. For me I just believe if we - focusing at the moment just on the two-party system -- if you have two candidates from -- one from each party - if you have two candidates conversing, debating against one another, competing for that seat, we'll actually get a greater discussion of issues and actually have a greater opportunity to choose the right person. In my opinion, I think that as a Republican putting the information out there, that the Republican would win, if given the opportunity to compete solidly. I think Ken believes same about the democrats.

Ted Simons: But for those who say, you know, you can talk all you want about competitiveness, but when you've got a certain area and you've got a certain number of folks they do seem to go a certain direction for the most part. How much can you Jerry rig that thing to get it competitive? And how much are you losing that sense of district, that sense of community.

Ken Clark: Absolutely, and what you're talking about is that contest between competitive districts and communities of interest. The thing is the people need to understand one of the reasons we had problems last time was people misused the communities of interest criteria. It doesn't have a definition. So what happened was people would come up and they put forward a surrogate a kind of a group and say this, is our community of interest. What they were really doing was protecting some incumbent's lines. So we have to put that aside and say, what are our communities of interest? When you wipe the map clean, which is what we do every 10 years, what you're left with is something kind of amorphous areas of population. You can do almost anything with that.

Ted Simons: I want to make sure folks who want to get involved with this know where to go… do they need a special browser, make sure it's updated.

Rebecca Voss: Rebecca make sure it's updated, butter going to, and toward the left corner it says redistrict now.

Ted Simons: All right. And may the best district win.

Ken Clark: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much for being here. Coming up on "Horizon," meet the new director of the state department of economic security, and find out how he plans to change the agency. And the director of Arizona state parks talks about the financial challenges facing the park system. That's Tuesday at 7:00 on "Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Roberta Voss:Co-Chair, Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition;Ken Clark:Co-Chair, Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition;

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