3 steps to creating your Québec municipal election map using ArcGIS

February 5, 2016

This blog post explores how municipal organizations can efficiently leverage GIS to revise their electoral maps for Québec’s upcoming elections in the fall.. Though this post has been written primarily for GIS professionals working for municipal governments, anyone who is interested in promoting GIS as a decision support tool for their organization will find this information helpful.

Since 2005, all Québec municipalities are required to hold a municipal election every four years. This process is regulated, and it’s generally up to the town clerk or the secretary-treasurer to serve as election president for his or her own municipality, as explained in this video (in French) posted by MAMOT. As the next election is planned for November 5, 2017, municipalities must decide which steps they need to complete in 2016, including the finalization of election maps. According to the chief electoral officer in Québec (in French), over 260 Québec municipalities must choose whether to reuse their 2013 map or create a new one in order to better reflect changes in the urban landscape. Municipalities electing to choose the second option have until May 31stto submit their new electoral district boundaries to ensure uniform representation of citizens on the municipal council.

This map must follow certain conditions, such as the number of electoral districts, which is determined by the size of a municipality's population. The socio-demographics of different areas must also be taken into consideration, including physical barriers, borough borders, land area, etc. Meanwhile, the number of voters per district must adhere to a certain ratio set by law in order to ensure uniform representation of citizens on the municipal council. Therefore, it’s necessary to think geographically throughout this process, drawing as much as possible on data approved and updated by the staff of a municipality or the provincial government. To make this task easier for municipal organizations, the chief electoral officer in Québec has released lists containing the number of voters by address. The geolocation of the data in these documents has proven to be an excellent starting point.

Collaboration between GIS specialists and municipal administration is a wise choice in order to complete these tasks simply and efficiently. As GIS technology is already available in many Québec towns and municipalities, all that is left to do is define the process.

If I were to create this type of map, I would do so in three steps. First, I would convert the thousands of voter addresses into map elements using municipality data or a geocoding engine created with data from Addresses Québec. I would then confirm whether the voter ratios by district are being met by conducting an analysis based on the locations of voter points and electoral districts in 2013.

If it were necessary to redraw the districts, I would use a free extension available for ArcMap called Districting for ArcGIS. It includes the tools needed to create the task of dividing the area into balanced sectors relative to the number of voters. The extension also allows the addition of layers of information in order to define electoral boundaries. I would therefore opt for socio-demographic data in order to follow the standards regarding district homogeneity. Lastly, I would use the ArcGIS Online cloud data enrichment service to supplement the existing information if necessary.

This video (in French) outlines the steps Québec municipalities can take to revise their election map in preparation for the next election, planned for November 5, 2017.

As you can see, it's easy to redistrict using ArcGIS. I encourage you to go through this process of analysis if time and resources permit. If you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to comment directly on this post. Additionally, if you need assistance with this approach, contact Frédéric Blouin-Michaud at 514-375-2897.

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