A team of researchers from Mason, the Brookings Institution, and Harvard University, in collaboration with Azavea, a Philadelphia-based software design company, announced the release of DistrictBuilder, a free, open-source, web-based software that will enable greater public participation and transparency during the upcoming electoral redistricting process.
Funded by a grant to Mason from the Sloan Foundation, the project is led by Michael McDonald, Mason associate professor of public and international affairs, and Micah Altman, senior research scientist at Harvard.
An advisory board of prominent government watchdog groups and redistricting experts is led by Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute. Together, the project’s participants have articulated principles for public participation and transparency in redistricting.
“The drawing of electoral districts is among the least transparent processes in democratic governance,” says McDonald, describing the problem identified by the project’s participants. “All too often, redistricting authorities maintain their power by obstructing public participation. The resulting districts embody the goals of politicians to the detriment of the representational interests of communities and the public at large.”
Project details can be found at www.publicmapping.org.