I was inspired to create this app after reading about various concerns about voter suppression during the 2020 US presidential election. Denying voters easy access to polling stations, especially early voting locations is one of the main forms of voter suppression in the United States. Visualizing and quantifying voter suppression is difficult because the spatial analytics required to support claims of voter suppression are not easily accessible to the public. The isoline routing features provided by here are a great way to help empower the public to explore and quantify how accessible different polling locations are in their city. Given the potential health threats posed by COVID-19, some people may not want to use public transit to access early voting stations. This app shows that most early polling stations are inaccessible by foot and that many locations in the city are more than a 30min walk to the nearest early polling station.

What it does

This app provides users with the ability to explore the reachability index of early voting locations across Houston. Users can also use this tool to explore the maximum travel distances/times to early voting locations near their home, office, or any other location in Houston. By dragging the green marker around the map users can visualize the reachability index of any location across Houston by foot or car for any date and time based on typical traffic patterns. This app empowers the public by providing them with data driven evidence when lodging complaints about poor access to voting stations and allows them to fight voter suppression. This tool can also be used by election officials to assess how well different polling stations serves their citizens. This tool will allow them to identify areas which poorly serve voters seeking early voting stations by foot or by car. By promoting better access to early voting locations this app can help promote fair and democratic elections.

How I built it

I got the idea when looking at an example on the Here website of how to measure reachability across different cities. I took the basic functionality of this example app and added new data layers including buildings in Houston to show which buildings are covered by different service areas and early voting locations. This required making some minor changes to the JavaScript code and adding some new functions to enable popups on the new data layers.

Challenges I ran into

Some challenges I ran into were easily accessing a file of the early voting locations. The voting locations were not provided in a spatial format rather a pdf which was difficult to parse and geocode.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am most proud of how this tool can help anyone assess how accessible their home is to early voting locations and potentially empower them with data driven evidence for the need for more accessible voting locations in future elections.

What I learned

I was really impressed how easy it was to take some of the basic examples from the Here Developers website and make minor adjustments to tell a completely different story and build a tool that can help solve real world problems with real world data.

What's next for Early Access

My next goal for this app is to implement some functions with Turf.js to dynamically calculate the number of buildings within each service area polygon so that users can see how many buildings are serviced by a polling station. I would also like to add a button to export the users map to a png so that users can share their maps with state and county voting officials to call for improved access to voting locations in future elections.

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