more GIS and electoral politics

(written by Intro to GIS student, D. A.)

One of the many uses of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is in electoral politics. In most countries, political representation is in part geographically-based (where you live is how you vote). One could statically map this data, but GIS can be used to analyse and display political data in more user-friendly and dynamic ways. An example of this application of GIS can be seen in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage of the 2007 federal election in Australia. The website features a very useful, interactive map, and makes extensive use of GIS.

ABC’s geospatial visualization is based on the Google Maps platform, and it contains various layers of political data. The layers contain data on the seat make up when the election was called, key seats, seats changing hands, as well as the final predicted results. The various electoral constituencies on the map are hotlinked to pages of information that give an overview of the demographics, and voting history. During the election, it had live results of the constituency as the votes were counted. The various constituencies on the site are colour coded based on the party that controls them. A viewer can flip though the data and in seconds see how the election is playing out, where various parties are gaining, and how those gains are geographically distributed. Because all this data is superimposed on Google Maps, a visitor can even search for a specific address to see the constituency that contains it. This map provides a highly accessible, one-stop location for information about the election.

Here in Canada, the CBC has also used interactive maps to display election results, but none are nearly as user-friendly or as comprehensive as the ABC example. The most recent election, which was held in early November, was for provincial ridings in Saskatchewan. The interactive map displayed only the incoming data for that election. Considerable additional data is available online, but it wasn’t brought together. Provincial riding profiles were displayed on separate pages, as were the results for the previous election. The format was far more constraining, and provided far less information than in Ausralia. It would be great if CBC could take full advantage of the new technologies that could improve the display of election information.

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