Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

  • GeoCivics is a project out of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs that aims to spread awareness about the redistricting process across the nation. We combine geography and civics to provide a suite of state-based materials that equip educators and community members alike with the tools necessary to be active participants in the redistricting process.

  • Population demographics in a specific place evolve and also change relative to the whole country.  These changes need to be reflected in our legislative bodies, such as the U.S. House of Representatives. The number of House seats a state is allocated changes every 10 years following the release of the decennial census data in a process known as apportionment. Whether the number of seats in a state has decreased, increased, or stayed the same, district boundaries also have to be redrawn every ten years to account for shifts in population. The process of redrawing district boundaries is known as redistricting.

  • If you care about having a fair and equitable democracy, then you care about redistricting. The maps drawn during the redistricting process are in place for ten years. Meaning, these maps can heavily influence the outcomes of two presidential elections and five congressmember elections.

  • The “On the Move” lesson plans, housed under State Resources, provide a strong scientific framework for exploring the history and geography of a state. The lesson uses cones to identify the fifteen largest cities in each state (determined by census data) over three time periods. Colored cones representing each cities population at a given time period are placed on top of  National Geographic's Giant State Maps (19 x 21 ft). Unable to access a Giant Map? Paper driving maps and LEGOs suffice as well. The cities that are in the top 15 largest more than once have stacked LEGOs (the colors delineate different census years), showing how population centers have maintained or lost residents. An interactive, kinesthetic activity, “On the Move” allows participants to better understand the physical geographies motivating human settlement, the distribution of resources across space, and how both of these factors influence population changes over time. 

  • Imagine apportionment in terms of portioning ice cream. Task students with imagining they have one enormous tub of ice cream, and say it is up to them to decide how many scoops each state should get based on the state’s population.  Explain redistricting in terms of pizza. Logically, you would want to cut the pizza into equal slices so that everybody can have fair shares of crust and toppings. Gerrymandering is the act of intentionally cutting yourself the largest slice and purposefully giving some other people smaller slices.

  • Geospatial technology, also known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), are computer programs that allow users to visualize spatial data in the form of a map. Visualizing data in the form of a map, as opposed to a spreadsheet, table, or graph, allows for anyone to see spatial patterns within the dataset itself. Understanding the spatial patterns of the world we live in is the first step in understanding why things happen where they do.

  • There are 435 total seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, distributed geographically, and each state must have at least one representative.  The number of representatives each state has is proportional to the total population of that state, relative to the total population of every other state. The larger the state, the more representatives the state has. In 2021, each member of the House will represent an average of 761,169 individuals, with representatives in Montana having approximately 542,704 constituents and in New York, 777,529.  The House district with the highest number of people is Delaware with 990,837. The number of districts a state is apportioned is equal to the number of seats a state has in the House.

  • District boundaries are typically drawn by state legislatures, redistricting committees consisting of elected representatives or their delegates, or independent commissions.  In some instances, district boundaries have been intentionally drawn to favor one party or class, both to provide opportunities for members of a minority group to elect a representative of their choice as well as to ensure that a particular party will remain in power, often described as gerrymandering. The individual votes of people living in gerrymandered districts may not have as much weight as the votes of people residing in fairly-drawn districts.  To address unfair maps, community members can and should work with the people in their state in charge of drawing district lines to decide the boundaries. Anybody can draw their own map and in some states may provide written comments as to why the lines should be drawn in a particular way.

  • Our electoral system assumes that the needs of a community are inextricably tied to where that community is located. This is why voting in the U.S. occurs in geographic areas. These geographic areas -- also known as voting/electoral districts -- are subdivisions of the larger state that group communities of interest together. Subdividing the larger state into electoral districts is necessary so that individual populations can choose who will vocalize their unique community needs at the local, state, and federal levels. 

    Geography is the study of why things happen where they do. Redistricting is the process of determining why district boundaries are drawn where they are.

    Redistricting is ultimately a spatial process that requires an in-depth understanding of how space and time converge to create the lived experiences of the people within a community. Geographers understand that communities of interest (COI) are more than just people — they are watersheds, road systems, landmarks, school districts, and most importantly, home to about 700,000 people. Geographers trained in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are able to couple this place-based, community knowledge with Census data to make better-informed decisions about where district lines should be drawn.

  • When you vote in the presidential election, you do not directly vote for the president or vice president. Instead, you vote for ‘electors’ that will vote for the president on your behalf. The number of electors each state has is proportional to the number of members that state has in Congress. Congress is divided into the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Every state has two Senators. The number of representatives each state has in the House is proportional to its total population. There are 435 total seats in the House and those seats are divided amongst the 50 states in a process called apportionment. Since the populations of each state change at various rates, the apportionment process occurs every 10 years to ensure that a state’s representation in the House is proportional to the rate at which its population changes over time. In total, there are 538 electoral votes (535 Congress members plus 3 additional votes for the District of Columbia, which is treated as an independent state for the purposes of the Electoral College). A president needs to win 270 Electoral votes in order to win the election.

    For example, in 2020 Colorado was apportioned 8 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Adding in the two Senators, Colorado has 10 electoral votes in the presidential election.