Wikipedia Article Analysis: Redistricting

          Every ten years following the Census, electoral districts throughout the United States undergo redistricting, a process which redraws district boundaries based on population changes from the prior decade.  Having been active with the local redistricting process in Evanston, Illinois, and knowing that many districts will soon kick off their redistricting efforts, I chose redistricting as my Wikipedia topic for analysis. 

          Overall, the article presents a superficial overview of the topic.  The main content is juxtaposed in a confusing manner in which municipal, state, and congressional redistricting efforts are haphazardly strewn on the page.  The first paragraph read as a “who’s responsible” section, the second as orphaned sentences joining unrelated state and municipal level information together, the third as a Frankenstein section with the criteria, players, and challenges listed, and the fourth as an overview of recent redistricting challenges.  Underneath this main section are two supplementary sections on public schools and gerrymandering, which are loosely related.

Below are additional areas I analyzed:

  1. Comprehensiveness: The main page has a mere 1,087 words whereas a more narrow topic such as ‘2003 Texas redistricting’ has 2,745 words.  However, since word count cannot be the sole determinant for an article’s comprehensiveness, I had to delve into the article’s contents.  First, one may infer that the page was the general page for redistricting; however, the first sentence of the article read, “For redistricting in general, see Redistribution (election).”  Upon clicking the link, the Redistribution page attempted to outline how redistricting is done in other countries (e.g., Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom), but its content was even more sparse than the redistricting page.  Second, the page misses core content such as the municipal-level (city and country) redistricting progress, criteria such as equal population based on number of voting aged individuals in a household versus total number of people in the household, the Voting Rights Acts Act of 1965 and consideration for majority-minority districts, communities of interest and who (i.e., people of the same racial class versus students and rabbis) belong in this classification, and the use of technology (e.g., mapping software such as Maptitude) and its pros and cons, mid-decade redistricting efforts, and an expansion of redistricting challenges, including how the courts have ruled.  Third, the article also misses the work of scholars such as Jeffrey Toobin and Thomas Brunell and the efforts of interest groups such as the Center for Democracy
  2. Sourcing: While only five sources are associated with the article, they are from a broad cross section of sources: official government websites, published article from a newspaper with a narrow audience and circulation of approximately 21,000 readers, scholarly journal, and Supreme Court case.  However, four of these articles were accessed on the same date, August 25, 2009, and the fifth article was added sometime in the past year.
  3. Neutrality: Some contend that redistricting is a contentious subject because of the partisan nature of the process.  As-written, I found that the article had a neutral voice. 
  4. Readability: With respect to the paragraph-by-paragraph overview presented above, I did not find the article easy to read.  Rather, the content mixes points and attributes certain redistricting considerations (e.g., the Voting Rights Act) to the state and congressional levels, when it is applicable in all instances. 
  5. Formatting: With respect to capitalization, titles/headings, punctuation, vocabulary, and grammar, the article follows Wikipedia’s Manual of Style.  The main content was contained within the same section and no sub-content sections exist. 
  6. Illustrations: There are no illustrations on the page.

 Recommendations

          The Redistricting page has a lot of promise and I would recommend the following changes:

  • Have the redistricting page should serve as the gateway for other redistricting articles with links to other pages and/or combine other Wikipedia pages such as the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission and Redistricting in Pennsylvania
  • Add content as suggested in the Comprehensiveness bullet point above
  • Reorganize/reformat content with sub-content divisions to separate information and improve readability (e.g., Congressional/State/Municipal processes, Criteria, Technology, and Recent Challenges)
  • Expand source list with additional works from mainstream press, published books, and journals
  • Add illustrations such as before and after maps of redrawn districts

 Author’s Wikipedia User Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Crimsonwildcat.