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DistrictBuilder is web-based, open source software for collaborative redistricting.
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.env.sample Remove specific references to PA instance from infrastructure config ( Dec 11, 2018
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Build Status

DistrictBuilder is software created by the Public Mapping Project.

The development environment is docker-compose for services inside a Vagrant virtual machine.

Table of Contents



  • Vagrant 1.8.1
  • VirtualBox 4.3
  • Ansible 2.2


$ # Copy .env file and add passwords
$ cp .env.sample .env
$ ./scripts/setup
$ vagrant ssh
$ ./scripts/update

If you want to get DistrictBuilder up and running quickly with demo data, you can then run

$ ./scripts/configure_va_data

Otherwise, you'll need to provide your own shapefiles and config.xml file. Put your zipped shapefile in a data directory at the project root, put your config.xml in django/publicmapping/config/ and then run

$ ./scripts/configure_custom_data <>

More detailed instructions on loading your own data can be found below.


Development Environment Setup


Your configuration file contains everything specific to your instance of District Builder. As part of setup, some of the values in the configuration file will be parsed to environment variables, and others will be used to tell the application setup scripts where to find data and what to do with it.

In broad strokes, the configuration file:

  • tells django and other services about secrets they need to know
  • tells the setup scripts where data live
  • tells the setup scripts what the data contain, i.e., what fields are present on each geographic record
  • tells the setup scripts how to create calculator functions for manipulating those fields

Ease of interacting with the configuration file is a planned area for future development.

Setting up your application

./scripts/setup provisions the virtual machine. It brings up an Ubuntu 14.04 virtual machine with docker installed. vagrant ssh gets you into the virtual machine so you can run commands. From there, running ./scripts/update builds containers. The rest of the setup happens either directly or indirectly through a setup management command. To get started, run ./scripts/setup, followed by vagrant ssh, followed by ./scripts/update.

Then, run ./scripts/configure_va_data. It is not fast. Currently, it takes several hours, with the exact time depending on hardware. We are working on ways to improve the speed of loading data.

The script will do several things

  • Fetch zipped shapefile data for Virginia into a specific location
  • Drop and recreate the district_builder database
  • Run database migrations: create the relationships that data will be loaded into
  • Load shapes from shapefiles at different levels: create records for the shapes and characteristics in the configured shapefiles
  • Nest the shapes at different levels into each other: calculate the spatial relationships between shapes at different zoom levels
  • Load some template plans: initialize the database with several example plans that users can start drawing with
  • Create database views: create the database objects that GeoServer will use to create tiles of specific subjects
  • Configure GeoServer: create layers and styles that will be served as tiles to the frontend

If you want to know what's actually going on in configure, these are the setup flags that the script executes:

  • -g0 -g1 -g2: load the zeroth through second geolevels. These geolevels are configured in the specified configuration file. This step loads geographies and attributes of those geographies into the database.
  • -n0 -n1 -n2: nest the zeroth through second geolevels. This step establishes the spatial relationships between the geographies in each geolevel in the database.
  • -t: create plan templates. This creates some example plans in the database to use as baselines for creating user plans. If it can't find information it needs to create a template, it skips that template after printing a warning message and doesn't fail.
  • --views: create database views for geographies and attributes. This step creates a database view for each attribute each for each geolevel. These views are what GeoServer uses to create tiles.
  • -G: configure GeoServer. This step creates the layers and styles that the frontend will eventually receive from GeoServer in the database and GeoServer container. This step will fail if you don't have a valid database connection configuration for your environment in config.xml. The example database connection information in config.xml is:
<Database name="district_builder"
  • -l: generate language files. This step ensures that the files necessary for internationalization are present in the django container.


DistrictBuilder does translation "the Django way" via translation strings. The translation strings are extracted into message files (.po) which are compiled into .mo files which Django can then use. Both the .po and .mo files can be found at django/publicmapping/locale/<LC>/LC_MESSAGES/, though only .po files are committed to source control.

There are two separate processes for generating translations, both of which are necessary for translated text to display properly in the web app:

  1. Compile translation strings for templates and Javascript via the makelanguagefiles setup command. This happens automatically whenever the web app is run via the languages container.
  2. Compile labels and descriptions from config.xml. This happens upon configuration when any setup command is run (eg. ./ setup config/config.xml from within django container).

Adding and Modifying Translations

DistrictBuilder uses a Django application called Rosetta to do translations.

To do translations in a given language, make sure the server is running (./scripts/server) and go to /admin to log in as an admin (the admin username and password are defined in .env). Once logged in, go to /rosetta. You should see the different languages available and the paths of the files that correspond to each language. If you make a translation and save, you should see your changes in that file in the django container and on the VM. If you restart the server, your translations will be visible in DistrictBuilder.

Once you are happy with your changes, the next step is to get them out of the VM and onto the host so they can be saved in source control.

You can use the command vagrant ssh-config to find the host, port, user, and identity file -- all of which you will need to copy the files over -- and then run:

scp -i <IdentityFile> -P <Port> -r <User>@<Host>:/vagrant/django/publicmapping/locale/ django/publicmapping/

You can then verify the translations are correct and commit those files.


More information about the application settings, configuration information, and run-time information is available in the PublicMapping/DistrictBuilder wiki.

Bug reports and feature requests can be reported to the PublicMapping/DistrictBuilder issue tracker.


For development and contribution to this repo, it is recommended to install pre-commit and setup the yapf hook as follows:

$ pip install pre-commit
$ pre-commit install

This will help with style of the Python code contributed to District Builder.



  • Docker v17+
  • Docker-Compose 1.21+
  • Git
  • PostgreSQL server 9.5
  • PostGIS 2.2

Pre-deployment Configuration

Note: This guide assumes you have already deployed PostgreSQL server and created a district_builder database. For more information about how to setup a PostgreSQL instance, see Postgres docs.


# Configure User Data
$ mkdir -p /opt/district-builder/user-data
$ touch /opt/district-builder/user-data/
$ cp /path/to/config.xml /opt/district-builder/user-data
$ cp /path/to/ /opt/district-builder/user-data

# Build & start containers
$ git checkout https:/
$ cd DistrictBuilder
$ cat .env
# docker-compose settings

# districtbuilder settings

$ ./scripts/update --production
$ ./scripts/load_configured_data --production
$ ./scripts/server --production

Before starting, ensure that you've installed all of the requirements above. You'll also need to be sure the following files exist:

  • /opt/district-builder/user-data/config.xml (see the config.xml section of this README)
  • /opt/district-builder/user-data/ (this file can be blank; DistrictBuilder will populate it during setup)
  • /opt/district-builder/user-data/
  • .env with application values filled in (see .env.sample).

Production Environment Setup

Once those files exist, clone this repository and run scripts/update as described in Setting Up Your Application, but use the --production flag.

$ git clone
$ cd DistrictBuilder

# Build container images, run migrations, set Geoserver password
$ ./scripts/update --production

When container images are built, load Shapefile data into the database:

$ ./scripts/load_configured_data --production

Finally, start services:

$ ./scripts/server --production
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