2,536 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Every so often the issue of redistricting grabs headlines, particularly when the balance of power is in play. In Arizona, every 10 years the state initiates a redistricting process led by the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). For the average voter, redistricting is not exactly heart-stopping politics, unlike local campaigns, which are filled with the usual entertaining antics. Yet the consequences and impact of redistricting are perhaps more significant to voters than a two year congressional term! Critics of the current process say the redistricting process in Arizona has historically lacked transparency, allowing political parties to easily manipulate the process. Crowdsourcing.org just featured Claudia Pelzer’s article on the crowd as a watchdog. Here we find yet another example of an organization tapping the crowd to lead a meaningful civic engagement project.
Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition was founded to provide the IRC with support for two important aspects of this process via crowdsourcing. First, to act as an idea generator for the Commission to maximize the criteria used in the process through new and creative ways, and second, to serve as a watchdog to enhance transparency. This is accomplished through a web platform called ArizonaRedistricting.com. Crowdsourcing.org recently interviewed Ken Clark, co-chair of the Coalition, who explained that “crowdsourcing provides peer review to enhance choice in an electoral process. Here you have the opportunity for an average voter to really dig down into the process.” He adds, “through this platform ordinary citizens are able to push back in a fundamental way”.
The Coalition is leading a groundbreaking effort by making available to the general public the use of a special mapping tool as well as sponsoring a contest, which will award prizes to the top two maps in two categories (congressional districts and legislative districts). The site also features a forum for users to interact. The effort has already garnered attention from local media, but Clark is hoping to spread the message so that a greater number of Arizonans can participate. Following the contest and submission of maps to the IRC, the Coalition hopes to use crowdsourcing to encourage voters to provide a watchful eye and scrutinize the rest of the process.
Up until now the redistricting process in Arizona had been largely inaccessible to average citizens. Ten years ago, participants had to purchase special mapping software for $1,000 and undergo special training. Only die-hard redistricting enthusiasts appeared to have a say in the process - in fact, a whopping 10 people submitted contributions to the IRD back then! So, offering the public an accessible platform and making the mapping tool instantly available online has had a dramatic effect on participation… so far ArizonaRedistricing.com reports 230 individual users have set up profiles and are mapping!
Indeed, this application of crowdsourcing blows opens the opportunity for average citizens to contribute in important ways to a previously closed process. Clark hopes that his Arizona initiative will catch on around the rest of the country, and in this way having a profound impact on the power structure that currently defines redistricting.