High school civics classes teach that democracy is in the hands of voters. This view, though empowering, only tells part of the story. To really understand a democracy, you need to understand how votes are counted. One must shed light on the very machinery that powers our representative democracy: the sometimes bizarrely-shaped geographic boundaries called congressional districts.
One day, there will be a brilliant, easy-to-use tool that enlightens our citizenry on the intricacies of gerrymandering and the political machinations therein. But that day is not today. Today we launch the crude, far-from-serious, yet very fun Better Draw a District, the last and longest-awaited in the series of projects we created as part of our Labs Olympics team building event.
Forget what you think you know about congressional districts. If you try out Better Draw a District (BDAD), prepare to be shocked at what you see. Some districts, once regular polygons, have been hideously transformed and are now unrecognizable. Yes, some districts have been spared, but they are the lucky ones. Some of the districts are just crazy. So wacky, in fact, that they resemble other shapes. BDAD lets you show what you really think they are, by encouraging you to draw over them and doing some ‘redistricting’ of your own.
BDAD thumbs its nose at other redistricting tools, which is best illustrated by letting loose some absurd examples. (A word of warning: use appropriate discretion if you are showing this to a starry-eyed, bushy-tailed high school civics class.)
Do these districts surprise you? Do they make you wonder how democracy can really be representative if the shapes are so gnarled? Maybe they should. Before you write or call your congressman, please take a can of virtual graffiti and deface a few congressional districts. Go, now, and browse the gallery or try your hand at some harmless redistricting. We hope Better Draw a District is a serious failure, but an imaginative success.