in Jefferson County..., a Journey
"Finding Community" is a project undertaken by the new clubhouse, KlubHaus Korner, in Helenville, Wisconsin. As a new enterprise, KlubHaus Korner needs to explore how best to serve our future customers, i.e. club members.
Who are members of the Helenville community? Are they only the 200+ people who actually reside in Helenville, the several thousand rural residents that surround Helenville, or do they include people from nearby communities. Many in Helenville have family members who live in surrounding villages and cities.
Where do people in Helenville shop for groceries, find healthcare, commute for employment and go for recreation? Many in Helenville must travel for these services in surrounding communities. What services might KlubHaus provide in Helenville?
Research on software tools regarding community identified an interesting opportunity for community research in Wisconsin. A project in Wisconsin, the People's Maps Commission, is aimed at identifying communities of people who work together on common issues of interest or concern. Examples are groups of people who like to fish or garden or ride snowmobiles. Other examples are people concerned about rural transportation, clean water and other community issues.
Of course, the People's Maps Commission is also focused on identifying these "Communities of Interest." In redistricting, the goal is to prevent arbitrary splitting of these communities during the process of creating maps for redistricting proposals.
Most importantly for KlubHaus' immediate community research needs, we discovered that the Wisconsin Peoples' Commission had contracted with a group of data scientists out of a software lab at Tuft's University to train people on how to collect community data. At KlubHaus, we decided to become trained through this free program and pay the cost forward by sharing our maps and research findings with our Wisconsin community. We hope our work will have many positive uses in addition to meeting our KlubHaus needs, perhaps even the more important goal of representative redistricting.
In class, my first training map, displayed on the top right, was to train me on how to collect data on our own communities. KlubHaus is in Helenville; consequently the draft Helenville map to the top right, is centered on Helenville and displays the surrounding communities where many people in Helenville go for groceries, healthcare and other business services. You can view the interactive map online and read the draft commentary:
Of course, since our training was intended to prepare ourselves to eventually create voting district maps, I chose for my next map to revise the Wisconsin Congressional Districts Maps by applying the "whole county goal" of redistricting. The second map displayed on the right was copied from the DistrictR interactive version: Proposed Congressional Districts
I became so interested in the challenge of District Mapping, I decided to try my hand at experimenting with State Senate and State Assembly maps. Of course I focused on Jefferson County and created the drafts of Congressional District 2 State Senate and Assembly Districts.
Although this mapping detour into Senate and Assembly districts was not aimed at our KlubHaus training goals, the project was great fun, and I learned a great deal. The results are found in the bottom two maps to the right copied from: Proposed State Senate Districts
I learned how challenging it is to create voting districts that are as compact as possible, i.e. as close to square or circle shaped as possible. At the same time, the goals of defining equal population numbers and minimizing splitting communities of interest complicates the challenge of creating compact districts.
Note that in the two Proposed District 2 maps to the lower right, the community of Waupun on the north border of Dodge County and Whitewater on the south border of Jefferson County are split when using the "whole county goal" of redistricting. Of course, county borders have always split many of these communities. Other communities often become split when district map-makers create borders within counties. My belief is that public referenda in these district border towns should be conducted by State officials to find out whether the communities perfer to remain split or to joint one district or the other. This example illustrates how mapping choices might make a map-maker compromise between fully meeting two different goals at once. For this reason, I believe each community of interest should convince one or more members of the community to create maps that represent the viewpoints of that community. I am a member of each community I mapped above. Certainly, my viewpoints may or may not be influential, but that is what representational democracy is all about. In the end, each community should be given a chance to propose solutions to the problem of splitting their communities.
I should mention that the theories on representational voting that underlie these goals are fascinating to me. The theory is that districts should be compact in order to optimize the ability of citizens of that district to work together and to be represented by a community neighbor rather than someone in a far off community. In order to support the theory of one person-one vote, populations need to be balanced in number between districts. The more people in one voting district versus a second voting district, the less each person has a chance to influence legislative voting issues. Likewise, the fewer people in a district, the more each person's vote from that district is worth. Finally, when communities of interest are split, the community members are forced to convince two representatives to share their concerns rather than just one representative. In other words, having different representatives for one community of interest makes it difficult for community members to collaborate on common concerns.
As I mentioned above, my new mapping experience taught me that to achieve all these goals at once is impossible; compromises must be made that inevitably reflect the biases of the mapmaker. I described the compromises I made while developing the Proposed Congressional Districts map in an essay you can read called, "The Viewpoint of a Rural, Independent Voter."
The next challenge was to try to fit the required number of State Senate Districts into a single Proposed Congressional District, District 2, and balance populations at the same time. To balance populations and to keep from splitting whole Communities of Interest within the Congressional District was very difficult.
Fortunately, the population balancing worked fairly well in Proposed District 2. I was able to create a single State Senate District by joining two whole counties, both that include the Rock River Basin. These were Jefferson and Dodge Counties. That left the remaining three State Senate Districts available for Dane County. Although Madison is too large for its own Senate District, I was able to keep much of Madison whole by defining the first remaining District largely within the City of Madison. Finally, I was able to split Dane County vertically from the areas that surround Madison in Dane County. However, I didn't have any DistrictR Community Mapping data to evaluate the compromises made in creating these three Districts in Dane County. Someone else will need to do the actual State Senate mapping for Dane County.
Lastly, the challenge that remained was to fit three State Assembly Districts into each Proposed State Senate District within Proposed Congressional District 2. My experience was similar to that of mapping State Senate Districts; balancing populations is fairly easy. Mapping without supporting Community Mapping data is impossible without the DistrictR data.
This completes my training saga using DistrictR software. The more difficult task will be perform the real task of interviewing people in Helenville. Then, I'll be ready to share my data with others in Jefferson County, and perhaps together, we can create a more complete view of Community in Jefferson County. Watch here for progress reports as we continue on this journey.