At the advent of redistricting, professionals used paper maps, calculators, and pens to draw district lines. It was only in the beginning of the digital age, that redistricting saw its first major advancements. Mapmakers were given access to computers and data management but were still limited by the price of hardware, the onerousness of computers, and the use of very large slow map printers.
By the 1990s, most of the redistricting process had gone digital. Computers that relied on massive amounts of census data including TIGER shapefiles supplanted the first generation of redistricting tech. Redistricting professionals, however were still burdened by the cost of data manipulation and expensive redistricting software. By extension, early software was prone to errors, was hard to use, and in many cases required that the professional knew how to program and code.
The next big leap in Redistricting occurred with GIS Plus. GIS Plus was less costly than existing programs, ran on computers, could process census data information, and perhaps most importantly, required a much shorter learning curve. The advancement in Redistricting allowed new people and organizations to become involved in a process that was once only the domain of government and backroom mapmaking officials.
Since then, numerous companies have become involved in creating Redistricting hardware and software catalyzing a whole new industry of people, product, and tech. The number of professionals and citizens involved in Redistricting has grown from a small few to thousands of people nationwide and across the world.
We believe that the future of Redistricting tech is one that not only makes redistricting more efficient and effective but widens accessibility, engages all citizens, and benefits our democracy.