The shapes shaping democracy

Nov 01, 2018

Election districts are the basic geometries of our democracy, determining which communities are represented, by whom, how votes are counted, and ultimately, what laws are passed.

ACLU’s What the District?! enables you to scroll back in time to see the history of these changing lines. You can directly see how your local Congressional district(s) have been drawn — and sometimes redrawn, stretched, or curved — since 1953.

Building this map represents extensive historic data gathering and clever design by the ACLU’s product development team. Most of the source data is from this amazing UCLA project collecting all boundaries between 1789 and 2013, plus processing work on more recent election districts including the new districts mandated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Do you see a seahorse? California’s 9th congressional district in 2012, and today.
North Carolina’s 12th congressional district in 1998, and today.

What the District?! demonstrates that these district boundaries are not static, but change again and again. Most often they are drawn by the party controlling a state legislature, every decade following the release of new census data. Sometimes the boundaries are the subject of lawsuits — this year, four different cases went before the Supreme Court over challenges to state congressional district boundaries, including in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Wisconsin.

This year’s midterm election will determine which party controls each state legislature in 2020, and therefore who is in the driver's seat in most states for redrawing congressional district boundaries following the 2020 census.

As the What the District?! map shows so vividly, congressional district boundaries are one of the most important things on ballot next week. So, wherever you are, please make sure to vote. You can find out how and where to vote with ACLU Voter.