The objective of this project is the development of a software that helps city employees adjust the boundaries of electoral or voting districts (Wahlbezirke) between election years. Our final product is a user-friendly tool that automatically generates and evaluates optimized districting maps for Berlin’s boroughs (Bezirke). The intuitive interface allows users to make their own modifications to algorithmically generated electoral maps.
The practical motivation for the development of this tool lies in demographic changes regularly experienced in Berlin from year to year. Shifting populations inevitably cause some voting districts to become disproportionately populated. However, according to Berlin’s electoral regulations (Landeswahlordnung), each voting district should encompass a maximum of 2,500 German citizens. Thus, the borders of these electoral districts have to be periodically redrawn as a response to these population shifts. For many city employees tasked with undertaking these redraws, this is an arduous task due to a lack of digital tools that could help automate parts of this process (for example, through highlighting which districts exceed the 2,500 threshold and by how much). Instead, many end up redrawing borders by hand, either by using a geographic information system, or even using pen and paper.
To address this need, the Open Data Informationsstelle (ODIS) at the Technologiestiftung Berlin has developed an open source prototype that can assist city employees in redrawing electoral district boundaries based on reassigning individual street blocks to new districts.
For 2021, ODIS plans to meet with representatives from all of Berlin’s 12 district election offices in order to evaluate the possibility of developing this tool further so that it can be used Berlin-wide.
In line with our commitment to the transparency and the neutrality of this process, our code is openly available on GitHub for replication purposes.