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Site’s free software aiding redistricting

by Sarah D. Wire | May 22, 2011 at 3:45 a.m.

— Despite spending about $70,000 in state money on software, initial drafts of House and Senate districts are being completed on a free website.

In 2010, then-Secretary of State Charlie Daniels spent the money on redistricting software called Autobound, which is developed by Annapolis, Md.-based Citygate GIS, according to the company’s website.

According to its website, the software is being used by at least 15 states to draw legislative and congressional districts based on 2010 census data.

Arkansas’ Board of Apportionment, made up of Gov. Mike Beebe, Secretary of State Mark Martin and Attorney General Dustin Mc-Daniel, is to draw new state House of Representative districts and Senate districts.

All three offices’ spokesmen said the Autobound software moves slowly. They said initial maps are being drawn with a free website called Dave’s Redistricting 2.1 and the final touches of the maps will be done in Autobound, which has a greater level of detail.

The free site is funded by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called Progressive Congress, which says it promotes a “progressive message to Congress.” The group provides a link to the software on its home page, www.progressivecon gress.org.

The secretary of state’s office began creating maps in February using Dave’s 2.1, according to former state Rep. Timothy Hutchinson of Springdale, who is drawing maps for the secretary of state. The secretary of state’s office and the board’s executive director, Joe Woodson, have created the maps released so far. Beebe and Mc-Daniel said their offices are not ready to release a map.

“It’s so much more simple than Autobound,” Hutchinson said. “We get the big picture done on Dave’s and then we transfer it over to Autobound.”

McDaniel said his office has also been doing rough drafts on the site.

“It’s much faster, but it’s not as accurate,” McDaniel said. “It is not a tool that should be relied on for serious mapping efforts.”

Woodson agreed that drawing the maps in Autobound can be time-consuming, but he said it is more accurate.

“It’s kind of cantankerous to get it right,” he said. “The software has to chew on it and it may take one second or it may take five seconds. It takes a while to make a whole map.”

Arkansas, Pages 15 on 05/22/2011

Print Headline: Site’s free software aiding redistricting

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