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DistrictBuilder is web-based, open source software for collaborative redistricting.


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This project is a continuation of the original version of DistrictBuilder, now called DistrictBuilder Classic, which is no longer being maintained. This repository is where active development of DistrictBuilder will continue to occur.


DistrictBuilder is web-based, open source software for collaborative redistricting.



Optional: Ensure that you have an AWS credential profile for district-builder configured on your host system. The server backend will use this in order to access S3 assets if present, and any manage commands that use S3 assets will require it.

Host Environments

The Docker containers used in development work very well on Linux, but require an additional layer of translation when running on non-Linux hosts. In particular, there are significant file-watching costs, which result in high CPU usage on macOS. On macOS, it is more efficient to run the containers within a Linux VM created with Vagrant.


On Linux, run scripts/setup to prepare the development environment:

$ ./scripts/setup

All other scripts can be run natively from the host, e.g.

$ ./scripts/update


On macOS, use the --vagrant flag to create a Vagrant VM instead:

$ ./scripts/setup --vagrant

All other scripts must be run from the Vagrant VM, e.g.

$ vagrant ssh
vagrant@vagrant:/vagrant$ ./scripts/update


$ vagrant ssh -c 'cd /vagrant && ./scripts/update'

For brevity, this document will use Linux examples throughout. You should run the scripts from the appropriate environment.

Note: It is recommended to configure your editor to auto-format your code via Prettier on save.


For Windows, please install WSL2 and Docker Desktop, and enable the WSL2-based docker backend.

Once you've setup WSL and Docker, you can clone and setup this project from within your WSL2 environment following the Linux installation instructions above.

Hot Reloading πŸ”₯

Note: Environments that use Vagrant require the Vagrant notification forwarder plugin for hot reloading. To install, run

$ vagrant plugin install vagrant-notify-forwarder
$ vagrant reload

Run scripts/server to start the application:

 $ ./scripts/server

While server is running, the Create React App frontend will automatically reload when changes are made. Additionally, the NestJS backend will restart when changes are made.

Remote Server Proxy

If you want to develop the client locally against a server running in the AWS staging environment, you can configure a local proxy using the BASE_URL environment variable:

BASE_URL= docker-compose up client

This will proxy local all requests directed at /api to

PlanScore API integration

You will need a PlanScore API token to test the PlanScore integration in development. Please email to get a token, then run ./scripts/bootstrap to create a .env file in the server directory and populate the PLAN_SCORE_API_TOKEN environment variable with your token.

Development Data

Using pre-processed data for development and testing

  1. Sign up for an account in your local dev instance of the application at http://localhost:3003(if you haven't already done so)
  2. Load testing data with $ ./scripts/load-dev-data. This will:
  • Load region configs for Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Dane County WI.
  • Create an organization, accessible at http://localhost:3003/o/azavea
  • Set the user you just created as the organization administrator
  1. In order to use any of the organization templates, you will need to confirm your email. You will see a banner asking you to confirm your email; when you click "Resend Email", an email form will appear in your terminal. Copy and paste the activation link within that form in your browser to activate your account.

Processing your own data for custom regions

To have data to work with, you'll need to do a three step process:

  1. Prepare or acquire a GeoJSON with boundaries and demographic data for your state/region (see next section for details on how to format this file)
  2. Process the GeoJSON (this outputs all the static files DistrictBuilder needs to work in a local directory)
  3. Publish the resulting files (upload to S3 for use by the app)

To process PA data, first copy the GeoJSON file into the src/manage/data directory, create an output directory (eg. src/manage/data/output-pa), and then run this command:

$ ./scripts/manage process-geojson data/PA.geojson -b -o data/output-pa -n 12,4,4 -x 12,12,12


$ ./scripts/manage publish-region data/output-pa US PA Pennsylvania

Once your data is published, you should be able to run the app and create a new project through the UI using that region and begin building districts.

If instead you'd like to use the processed data to update S3 in-place (and not insert a new region into the database), you may instead run the command:

$ ./scripts/manage update-region data/output-pa s3://previous/location/of/the/published/region

Note: when doing this, you will need to restart your server to see the new data, since it's cached on startup

How to format a custom GeoJSON to upload to DistrictBuilder

This section demonstrates how to format a GeoJSON to feed into the process-geojson script. DistrictBuilder is flexible and allows you to specify in a state/region one or more base geographic units to use to draw district boundaries in the user interface. The base geographic unit or units can be census boundaries (ie. county, tract,blockgroup, or block), voting boundaries (ie. wards or precincts) or any custom unit for which you have geographic boundaries and demographic data. The following examples demonstrate how to format the GeoJSON that you acquire or create in order to use process-geojson to prepare it to upload to DistrictBuilder:

Example 1: US Census & VAP Data
{ "type": "FeatureCollection",
  "features": [
    { "type": "Feature",
      "geometry": {
        "type": "Polygon",
        "coordinates": ...
      "properties": {
        "population": 1250,
        "white": 250,
        "black": 250,
        "vap": 1000,
./scripts/manage process-geojson census-example.geojson -d population,white,black,asian,hispanic,other -d vap,vap_white,vap_black,vap_asian,vap_hispanic,vap_other -l block,blockgroup -o data/census-example
Example 2: Ward & Precinct Boundaries with Voting Data
{ "type": "FeatureCollection",
  "features": [
    { "type": "Feature",
      "geometry": {
        "type": "Polygon",
        "coordinates": ...
      "properties": {
        "population": 1000,
        "white": 200,
        "black": 200,
./scripts/manage precincts.geojson -d population,white,black,asian,hispanic,other -v republican,democrat,other_voters -l precinct,ward -o data/precinct-example

Visit the manage README further documentation of the process-geojson script.

Project Organization

In order to allow for code-sharing across the frontend and backend in conjunction with an unejected Create React App (CRA), it was decided that the simplest and least error-prone way forward was to structure the code as such:

β”œβ”€β”€ package.json (Applies to the CRA frontend)
β”œβ”€β”€ src
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ client (Location for all CRA frontend code)
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ index.tsx (This and another file need to be here for CRA-purposes)
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ manage (Command-line interface)
β”‚   β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ package.json (Applies to the command-line interface)
β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ server (NestJS backend code)
β”‚   β”‚   β”œβ”€β”€ package.json (Applies to the NestJS backend)
β”‚   └── shared (Code that is used by both the frontend and backend)



Port Service
3003 Create React App
3005 NestJS


Name Description
cibuild Build application for staging or a release.
cipublish Publish container images to Elastic Container Registry.
dbshell Enter a database shell.
infra Execute Terraform subcommands with remote state management.
load-dev-data Loads development data for testing
manage Execute commands with the manage CLI tool.
migration Execute TypeORM migration CLI commands.
server Bring up all of the services required for the project to function.
setup Setup the project's development environment.
test Run linters and tests.
update Build container images, update dependencies, and run database migrations.
yarn Execute Yarn CLI commands.

Command Line Interface

A command line interface is available for performing data processing operations. See src/manage/ for more info.