Nebraska Congressional Districts

I was playing around QGIS today (my first time!), and made an animation that highlights the evolution of the state’s congressional districts. It begins in 1867, when Nebraska became a state, and ends in 2013.



Seeing the animation reveals how much the districts changed over the last 150 years. Nebraska was one, at large district for the first 15 years, and then had as many as six districts (which means we had eight electoral college votes!). Three of those are now obsolete, leaving us with three districts since the 1960 census. There have been more district changes since 1963 than prior, which speaks to both population changes/shifts and gerrymandering. Another interesting thing is the state line in the northeast. By the 1883 frame, the state is larger than it was in 1867 (I assumed it was an error in the SHP files). A quick Google search led me to, and I discovered that the “extra” land comes from the Sioux nation. I’ve lived in Nebraska for five years and had no idea it got larger after statehood.

I started with the SHP files from United States Congressional District Shapefiles. I downloaded the files from the 40th congress to the present congress. Opening all of the files in QGIS, I filtered out all states except for Nebraska (using the query editor). I used the maps that included any changes from previous years, which ended up being 11. I exported each one, and stacked them in PhotoShop. I added text layers and merged them down to each image layer, and created frames from each layer (and allotted them 1.0 second duration with an infinite loop). There are probably much simpler ways of doing this, but I’m unfamiliar with the software and just wanted to experiment a bit. I installed the TimeManager plugin in, but was too distracted with all of the bells and whistles on the software to bother adding a new field for the year. But that could be an alternative.

This was more of a technical exercise than a scholarly venture. Going down the list of shapefiles, I’m sure I missed some subtle district changes. And I don’t know exactly which district was located where on each map, so I just assigned different colors to visually distinguish that there are additional/multiple districts. This information could be ascertained from congressional district maps and newspaper articles, but again, this was just a nerdy exercise.