the program only allowed a couple of data layers to be brought in. This paucity of data layers meant that CAC members couldn't quite get rid of a pile of paper maps detailing everything from school district boundaries to subdivision layouts when considering new supervisor districts, said Sally Ormsby, chair of CAC and a past board member of the Fairfax County League of Women Voters.
"It would have been very helpful to have had on the map the communities, the streets and all, so you could zoom in and bring up just a precinct or a few precincts and see on the map the subdivisions and communities," she said. "Then, we wouldn't have had to refer to our paper maps. What we had was very useful, but it didn't preclude the need to use other reference materials."
Still, Conry said CAC members easily picked up the program and it successfully presented the changes made to a particular supervisor district graphically when new data was plugged into the templates.
Then and Now
The difference between the current reapportionment process and 1990's process was immediately apparent to Michael Long, senior assistant county attorney, who is responsible for ensuring that the plans conform to Virginia's state constitution.
"We covered an awful lot of ground and got to a level of detail very quickly that we didn't have before when we were dealing with paper maps and crayons. The technology brought us along very quickly, but it also had some problems that we had to be alert to," he said, noting that intergroup discussion is essential to the reapportionment process.
"The whole concept of redistricting is that you're trying to balance population, but, in doing that, you have to keep track of communities of interest. One person's view of valuable communities of interest is not the same as another person's. Getting people to talk about it is a very good way to get to some sort of consensus."
Another problem was the reluctance of some CAC members to use the new tools, Long explained. "
At the end, though, they weren't asking for crayons," he said. "The citizens certainly adopted the technology, and, after the second meeting, they were having fun with it."
Ten years ago, Ormsby said, CAC sent 21 plans comprising 413 pages to the county Board of Supervisors. This year, CAC sent 17 plans comprising only 280 pages to the board.
"The GIS provided a wonderful tool for immediately seeing the result of transferring a precinct from one supervisor district to another," she said.