Redistricting: Who Moved My Polling Place? Is That Scoundrel On My Ballot?

March madness is nigh.  It is prime season for high-stakes on the hardwood and the soft science of bracketology.  But what may be more intense, while far less entertaining, is the wrestling match between the states and their redistricting maps.

Of those states, Texas is the beefy heavyweight. It was slated to hold its presidential preference primary on April 3, but Texas’ best laid plans have been paused. A U.S. Appeals Court judge has advised Texans to plan on a primary no earlier than May 29.  Now with its leap to the later part of primary season, Texas and its 155 Lone Star delegates will have to hold their horses as they wait to be courted by the Republican presidential candidates.

You may be wondering, “why all the the fuss?”  Well, in a nutshell, redistricting matters.  The folks that draw the district lines can impact the outcome of an election more than any other factor.  The redistricting process varies widely from state to state; and in most states, the lines are drawn by the legislators themselves. According to the Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting from the Brennan Center for Justice:

Most states allow the legislature full control over the process of drawing lines from beginning to end. Some give the legislature first crack only. Some give others the first crack but allow the legislature the final word.  And some give no role to the legislature at all.

How does this affect you as a voter?  First off, your polling place may be different.  How inconvenient!  More importantly, your elected representative may change.  This shuffle can make it difficult to hold your legislator accountable and it can also be confusing when you are educating yourself about your ballot.  Fret not, this is where the Voting Information Project (VIP) can help!

In 2010, over 7.2 million voters accessed VIP data to better navigate the election process.  In 2012, the first general election year after updates to 2010 congressional districts, we hope to reach over 10 million voters, providing them with the voting information they need to cast an informed ballot.  We are diligently working to build a 50-state dataset that not only shares polling place information but also shares candidate information all the way down to the local level.  The search tool is easy to embed, accurate, and free. If you have a website, all you need to make a difference in your community on Election Day is the VIP embed, the Election ID, and 90 seconds.  Easy!  As we recruit more states and gather more data, please feel free to contact us with questions and recommendations for improving the project. In the meantime, you can get active brainstorming your bracket and dominating The ReDistricting Game (tip: allow pop-ups!).  Where do you draw the line?

Michelle Shim