Redistricting can often seem like an abstract process, something reserved solely for the data and politics geeks.
But the process has real-world, tangible effects on how people vote, who they vote for and how the winners represent voters in Albany and Washington, D.C.
As New York's once-a-decade process for re-drawing congressional and state legislative districts heats up, Steven Romalewski at the CUNY Center for Urban Research is trying to show to voters how and why it matters.
"You don't need to draw maps to participate in redistricting," he said.
The director of the CUNY mapping service, Romalewski has developed an interactive map called "Redistricting and You" for New York voters to compare the current map for seats in the House and state Legislature with the various proposals that have been made.
"Redistricting impacts everyone," he said. "Everyone should be concerned and what we've tried to do is make it really easy for anyone to zoom in to their address to any spot on the map."
The map works like this: Users can zoom in on a spot on the map, search for their address and find their current member of Congress, state Assembly or state Senate. Users can also search for demographic information and how it voted in the 2020 presidential election. It's all part of an effort to show the tangible effects of how map lines can change.
"If you think that it's this backroom, political dealing process," Romalewski said. "You may be daunted by it and you may not want to get involved. But this makes it easy for you to get engaged."
Comparing maps for voters can be helpful to show how their political power can be exercised in the voting booth. And it can show how maps can be drawn to dillute or empower blocs of voters.
The redistricting process is set to conclude early next year and could reshape many of the key congressional races next year.
"It can be challenging definitely to draw lines to try to balance all of those interests and all of those concerns," he said. "But that's also why the public input is so important."