[Image courtesy of Omaha World-Herald]
Last Thursday, the Omaha World-Herald published an online precinct map examining the impact of some new controversial precinct lines in Douglas County. As we discussed here on the blog a few weeks ago, the county election official has come under considerable fire for the new map, which Democrats believe will result in the disenfranchisement of large numbers of voters in Nebraska's largest city.
The newspaper's map is intended to examine this concern, and combines voter addresses with digitized precinct boundaries to determine how far voters are from their assigned polling place. Overall, the map suggests that three in five voters are more than half a mile from their polling place, up from two in five before the change. The screenshot above is from the article, and shows the percentage of voters in each precinct who are inside the half-mile radius.
However, the map and the underlying data appears not to confirm the concerns about differential partisan effects of the change:
While Democrats have been particularly critical of the changes, the analysis showed only slight differences in impact based on party affiliation. For example, 49.6 percent of Democrats will be farther from their polling place, compared with 46.9 percent for Republicans. About 17.5 percent of Democrats are a half mile farther from the polls, compared with 16.9 percent of Republicans.
Overall, Democrats remain closer to the polls than Republicans. More than 43 percent of Democrats are within a half mile of their new voting location, while 38.2 percent of Republicans are that close.
This kind of mapping analysis is incredibly useful to both planning and evaluating election changes, and the newspaper (and presumably the election office, as source of the data) is to be commended for the effort.
I have one small quibble - namely, that it isn't possible to enter an address and see the associated precinct - but given the work currently being done in this area by many election offices in conjunction with the Voting Information Project such functionality shouldn't be that difficult to add.
Overall, this kind of tool - placing election information in an accessible online map - is the kind of service that should become more and more common during this election year and beyond.