Fun with GIS 220: Apportionment

Blog Post created by cfitzpatrick-esristaff Employee on Oct 9, 2017

Perhaps the most fundamental activity of a citizen is voting. In the US, this is stunningly dependent on geography. The simple act of casting a ballot is a profound demonstration of faith in a system. But some argue that the system today is imperfect, even tainted, since the political party in power in a state defines the boundaries of each district. We can simulate this, and so discover the importance of understanding complex problems and grasping how GIS can foster critical thinking and problem solving.


The lesson "Ohio Apportionment" lets teachers and students explore quickly the population of an example state -- Ohio -- and work on dividing it up. But different people will make different choices, with different reasons, and different impacts. Very quickly, and without login, users can explore and make some decisions, and start contemplating other patterns. In just a few minutes, users can test various scenarios.




Teachers with time can do a deep dive into the makeup of their home state. Students with time and interest might consider turning this into a substantial project, perhaps even an entry to a competition. Helping the citizenry choose their representatives equitably is a Gordian knot -- one of many in our time -- demanding attention from many minds and perspectives, with give and take on all sides, seeking common ground through The Science of Where. It takes exposure, and practice, and analysis. It can begin with simple exploration … an open mind … thinking scientifically … investigating. This is what education is about. It begins with little steps.