What Redistricting Looks Like In Every State

Country/area: United States

Organisation: FiveThirtyEight

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 9/8/2021

Credit: Nathaniel Rakich, Sarah Frostenson, Ryan Best, Aaron Bycoffe,, Julia Wolfe, Santul Nerkar, Emily Scherer

Biography: At FiveThirtyEight, we use data and evidence to advance public knowledge — adding certainty where we can and uncertainty where we must.

Project description:

Our on-going redistricting interactive follows the drawing of district lines that will help shape who holds political power in the U.S. for the next 10 years. The project tracks proposed congressional maps — and whether they might benefit Democrats or Republicans in the 2022 midterms and beyond.

Impact reached:

This project pulls back the curtain on the decennial redistricting process – a process that affects how much of a voice every voter in the U.S. has in our political discourse yet is so sprawling and complex that it verges on opaqueness. By measuring the fairness and competitiveness of every proposed map in every state, as well as how each would change the racial and ethnic makeup of districts, it gives voters a clear, simplified view of how the playing field of U.S. politics is being tilted by the parties.

This project has already received more than 25 million page views – evidence that people are using it to track and understand this crucial part of America’s political system. Moreover, we’ve seen many state and local reporters use the data and maps generated in this project in their own coverage of redistricting.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used Python to maintain our data pipeline: pulling in data from various sources, analyzing it and exporting it for use online. We used PostGIS, an extension to PostgreSQL, to store and analyze geographic data. The project’s interactivity is built using JavaScript, including the D3 library.

What was the hardest part of this project?

This is a story where both the forest and the trees are important, and there are a lot of trees. Many people are interested only in how the redistricting process will affect the chances that Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. House. But below that topline, nearly every voter in the nation is affected by this process, and we wanted to arm both voters and local reporters with the data and information they need to understand how their part of the political playing field would be changing. Covering this process with both audiences in mind, and designing the tracker to serve everyone, was and is extremely difficult. As local news outlets have disappeared, national news outlets need to find ways to serve local audiences while still telling national stories. We feel like we found a way here.

What can others learn from this project?

Sometimes building a tool for your audience is more powerful than telling them a story. We put a lot of effort into building a tool for users that would help them understand the redistricting process – all of it or a particular part of it. Putting that tool in their hands, we’ve seen users tell their own stories with it. That’s been incredibly gratifying and powerful.

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