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Free redistricting tool uses incredible power of ‘crowdsourcing’

In regards to the article, “Commissioners eye free mapping software, say it could be used differently than creators intended” Arizona Capitol Times, May 8, we offer the following to address concerns noted by some of the members of Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission.

What do the Oxford English Dictionary and Redistrict Arizona have in common? They are both about “crowdsourcing.”

Yes, the Oxford English Dictionary, long considered the highest standard and ultimate English language dictionary, was first developed by compiling responses to a letter of appeal in 1879 according to amazon.com.

Well, Redistrict Arizona, the online mapping tool sponsored by the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition, also relies on the genius of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is incredibly powerful because it allows people to review each other’s work. It is the broadest form of peer review and has allowed people in universities and science labs to solve complex problems with help from all over the world.

As peer review is an important quality-control factor in large complex projects, our public mapping contest will be reviewed and judged by one Republican, one Democrat, and one independent. They will examine all entries. We will recognize and award those who best incorporate all six of the criteria Arizona voters approved in 2000. Maps being built on Redistrict Arizona will also be judged by other map makers on the system due to the unprecedented ease with which map makers can import and examine each other’s work.

Commissioner Scott Freeman rightly noted that some citizens who address the IRC will advocate giving more weight to one or another or some multiple of those criteria. Likewise, we also do not mandate that every online user of our mapping tool follow the same formula. He also expressed concern when one of our webinar participants asked about adding the addresses of incumbent lawmakers. We cannot and will not put that information in our database.

At this writing, about 170 user profiles have been set up for Redistrict Arizona. As we understand it, that is as much as ten-fold the number of everyday citizens who had access to mapping tools for the 2001 redistricting in Arizona.

We trust the members of the Redistricting Commission will be able to recognize the agenda each advocate presents to them. And we also understand that they, the commissioners, will have the final say in how Arizona’s legislative and congressional districts are drawn.

But we are very excited to make this project and contest available, and we hope to see enthusiasm and optimism for lawmaking in Arizona for the next decade and beyond.

— Roberta Voss and Ken Clark are co-chairs of the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition.

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