Getting started with the mapping software

1. Introduction

Last updated: February 18, 2022

Thank you for participating in the redistricting process by using our online program to create your own maps. The GIS-based software is created by ESRI.

This document will walk you through how to submit your plans to the redistricting board for consideration. Your redistricting plans must be submitted by Monday, May 2, 2022 at 5 p.m. EST.

If you'd prefer to watch a video tutorial, we recorded our most recent webinar on the software. Click here to watch.

What is Redistricting?

Over time, communities and populations change. To ensure each of our districts continue to represent an equal number of residents, we conduct a regular process, called redistricting, to appropriately and fairly readjust the lines of districts in accordance with population shifts. 

What is GIS?

GIS stands for geographic information system. A GIS is a computer system for gathering, storing, analyzing, and displaying spatial data. This data can include roads, water features, buildings, land ownership – essentially anything that can be mapped can be included in a GIS.

Who is ESRI?

ESRI stands for Environmental Systems Research Institute. It is the software company that produces the ArcGIS software suite, one of the most widely used and recognized GIS products on the market and the primary GIS used by numerous state and local agencies.

You can see examples of how the City of Orlando uses ESRI maps at:

What if I Need Help?

We’re offering a virtual training session on the mapping software and two Open House events where you can stop by and get help with creating your maps: click here

How Else Can I Participate During Redistricting?

If you don’t want to submit your own map, you can still participate at board meetings or give us feedback about your neighborhood.

Keep up to date with our redistricting process at:

2. What Makes a Valid Map?

Your map needs to include all six districts in order to be considered by the board.

When you’re ready to submit your map, the mapping software will check if your map meets legal redistricting criteria – this is known as the map “validation” step.

More info on the criteria used for creating districts can be found at:

To help create valid maps, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the population difference (maximum deviation) between districts less than 10%?s

    Orlando has six districts. Ideally, each district would be 1/6th of the total city population, or 51,262 people. The districts you create should be as equal in population as possible. In a valid map, the difference or “range” between the largest and smallest districts cannot exceed 10% -- in this case, 5,126 people.

    For example, let’s say the ideal district is 100,000 people. (The maximum deviation is 10%, or 10,000 people.) Your largest district is 105,000, which can be expressed as 5% deviation, and your smallest district is 97,000, or -3% deviation. The difference or “range” between 5% and -3% is 8%, or 8,000 people. Therefore, your district numbers would be acceptable.

  2. Have you created compact districts?

    There is no settled upon definition of “compactness,” however, courts have found compact districts to be more densely packed and resembling geometric shapes, such as squares and rectangles with straight borders. The Supreme Court has held that districts with dramatically irregular shapes may be evidence of unlawful intent in drafting the redistricting plan.

  3. Are your districts contiguous?

    A contiguous district means that all parts of a district are connected. This can be measured by whether it is possible to travel to all parts of a district without ever leaving it.

  4. Have you avoided favoring or disfavoring any political party?

  5. Did you draw district boundaries along streets and natural boundaries?

    When drawing your maps, you’ll notice shapes “snap” to existing boundaries to help you meet this criterion. This might take a little getting used to, so we recommend zooming in enough on the map where you can see the streets.

  6. Have you attempted to keep neighborhoods together within a district?

    Sometimes, a neighborhood needs to be split in order to balance districts. We try to avoid this as much as possible, though.

  7. Have you attempted to keep communities of interest together within a district?

    While there is no single definition of “communities of interest” (COI), generally, COI are geographic areas, such as historic districts, master planned development communities, or Main Street districts, where residents have common political interests. In other words, a COI is a group of people in the same area that shares a common bond or interest.

  8. Have you maintained the core areas of prior districts?

    Continuity of districts leads to continuity of representation for constituents.  Because of this, in redistricting the city’s commission boundaries, the process does not begin with a blank slate but rather begins with the current district boundaries.

3. Using the Mapping Software

Now that you understand how districts are shaped, it’s time to create your own maps.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • You will be asked to create an account. All we need is your name and email. We will only use this information to track your map’s status and send you redistricting updates.

  • The mapping process takes time. You can save your progress and come back to it later. Just be sure to submit your map by Monday, May 2, 2022 at 5 p.m. EST.

  • When you submit a map, the software will check if it meets all the mapping rules. If you have any errors, you must correct them – we do not accept invalid maps.

  • All submitted maps become public record.

  • All submitted maps that meet the minimum legal requirements for review will be provided to the members of the RAB. At upcoming board meetings, the RAB will consider those maps that are presented to the RAB at a public meeting by a member of the public or submitted maps that are otherwise brought before the RAB by an RAB member.
     Keep in mind: You must submit your map at least 3 business days before presenting it at a meeting

4. Create an Account and Log In

The redistricting software is found here: 

If you already have a redistricting account, click on “Sign in to Portal for ArcGIS” and enter your credentials. 

If you do not have an account, click “Set up an account.” 

login screen


The “Create Account” window will appear as a popup. Fill in the requested information.

Note that ESRI’s password requirements can be difficult to meet. If your password is not being accepted, try your browser's "strong password" suggestion, or one or more of the following:

  • Use both lower- and upper-case letters
  • Include at least one number
  • Include at least one symbol (!#$%^&, etc.)
  • Ensure the password is at least 8 characters long
create account popup with example info


After filling out the information and clicking the Create button, the Notice popup window appears:

user account confirmation popup


Click OK. The first page reappears. Click on “Sign in” for a new popup and enter the credentials you used in creating the account:

esri login fields


You will be prompted to select a security question and create a custom answer. Enter the information and click OK:

security question fields


ESRI will ask your permission to let the redistricting application access your account. Click Allow:

esri permissions popup

The licensing agreement will appear. Click Agree when you finish reviewing it:

licensing agreement


Changing Your Profile and Log-in Information

Once you are logged in to the software and have a plan opened, you can change your profile and log-in credentials if you wish. In the Share ribbon, click on the Edit Profile button.

edit profile button

The User Profile window appears where you can change your credentials. Click OK to confirm your changes, or click Cancel to cancel any changes:

user profile window

The User Profile window also appears if you click on your username in the top right corner of the application.

5. Navigating the Interface

The software is split into three main sections:

  1. Ribbons
  2. Map View
  3. District Window
screenshot of main interface


Ribbons and Tools

The ribbon at the top of the screen includes your redistricting tools.

main toolbars

Click through the ribbons (File; Learn; View; Create; Review; Share; Submit). Each of these ribbons contain different types of tools, while the Learn ribbon has information from ESRI about the program.

If you’re ever unsure what a button does, hover your mouse pointer over the button. A small description of its function will appear:

tooltip example

For ESRI’s full online documentation, click this link: redistricting-online.htm

Moving Around the Map

The center of the screen is your map view. To move around the map, click on the Create ribbon tab and select the Pan tool:

locating the pan tool


You can then click on the map, hold down the left mouse button, and then move your mouse to move around the map.

Other options also exist to move around the map:

  • Press the arrow keys on your computer keyboard to pan the map in the direction of the arrow(s) you press.
  • If your mouse has a center scroll wheel, hold that down and move your mouse. This will pan around the map.


You have a few ways to zoom in or out of the map.

Click on the + (zoom in) and – (zoom out) buttons at the top-left corner of the map to zoom in and out:

location of zoom buttons on the map

In the Create ribbon, click on the Zoom In icon (the icon to its right is the Zoom Out button):

location of zoom button in the ribbon

Click on the map, hold the left mouse button down, and move the mouse to draw a rectangle:

selecting an area on the map to zoom into


The map zooms in to that area:

results of the zoom


The zoom out tool functions the same way.

A third option is to scroll up or down on your mouse wheel with your mouse pointer on the map. Scrolling up will zoom the map in to where your mouse pointer is. Scrolling down will zoom out from the area your mouse pointer is.

Data (District Window)

The bottom of the screen is the district window and shows your districts’ population:

table of district data


These numbers automatically change as you adjust your district lines. The numbers use Census 2020 data and include total population and race/ethnicity numbers. Hover over a column header for a description of that data.

With your mouse pointer on the data table, scroll up or down on your mouse wheel. This allows you to scroll through the data table to see numbers for other districts.

There is also a scroll bar on the right-hand side of the table that you can click on to scroll up or down instead.

The scroll bar at the bottom of the table can be moved to the left or right so you can see other data variables.

scrollbar location


For more information about how the Census defines race and ethnicity, click this link:


At the top-left corner of the map is a tiny arrow button:

the tiniest arrow

When you click on this, a gray box with 3 tabs at the bottom (Contents; Legend; Identify) appears with more options.

The Contents panel allows you to turn map layers on or off by clicking on the check boxes. Try turning some layers on or off to see how they change the map.

map panel showing different layer options


The Legend panel shows you what active layers look like:

different layers in the legend panel

The Identify panel includes more advanced functions to be covered in other training materials.

6. Additional View Options

The View ribbon contains several options for toggling district information on the map.

Coming soon.

7. Open a Plan

When you log in, a mapping plan with the current six City of Orlando districts will open by default. This is the plan you will use to create your own map.

If you need to refer to it later, this plan is named OrlandoRedistrictingTemplate2022.

default mapping plan loaded in the map pane


Opening a Saved Plan

If you already have a plan saved to work on, or want to open a plan other users have shared, click the Open button in the File ribbon:

finding the open button in the ribbon

The Open Plan window pops up:

popup listing different plans to select

The left-hand section has three folders you can click on:

  • Recent Plans shows plans you have recently opened or worked on.
  • My Plans shows all plans belonging to you.
  • Shared Plans shows plans that have been shared. If you are a member of any groups (you should always have access to the Everyone group), you can click on the group name to see plans shared to that group.

    Some plans are available to Everyone:

  • The default 2022 redistricting map
  • A plan showing the 2020 Orlando census, to be used as a reference
  • Any plans other software users have decided to share with the public

When you click on a plan in the middle box, a small preview of the plan shows up in the right-hand box.

To open a plan, click on the plan you want in the middle box, and then at the bottom-right of the window, click the Open Plan button.

8. Saving the Plan

Before making edits to the map, use the Save As function to save your own version of a plan. Click on the Save As button:

location of the

The Save Plan window appears. Fill in your name and description for the plan, and then click OK:

the save popup window

At this point, you can use the regular Save buttons whenever you want to save changes to the plan you’re working on: The Save button in the orange bar will be there no matter which tools you’re using. The bigger Save button is in the File ribbon.

location of save buttons in the ribbon

Don’t worry about accidentally saving over someone else’s plan – the software won’t let that happen.

Keep in mind: You should save often, just in case you lose your internet connection.

9. Beginning Work on Your Plan

In this section, you’ll start working on your plan and learn some of the basic functions of the software.


Click on the Create ribbon. Most of your work will be done on this ribbon. Towards the right hand side of the ribbon is the Basemap button.

location of basemap button in the ribbon

In the Basemaps window, click on Imagery.

gallery of basemaps


This changes the underlying reference map to satellite imagery. Depending on your needs, you may want to change the basemap.

For this exercise, go back to the Basemaps window and click on Streets. This changes the basemap back to the default street map.

Understanding Zoom and Selection Levels

In the Create ribbon, zoom level information is to the left of the Basemap button:

zoom buttons in the ribbon

Display Level tells you what geography is currently displayed. By default, the geography is Block. Try zooming out on the map. You should see the display level change. Zoom levels include Place and Block.

10. Building Your Plan: Map Selection Tools

To build your redistricting plan, you will be reassigning parts of districts to one or more other districts. For example, you might be moving a neighborhood from district 2 to district 1. Or a few streets in district 6 to district 4.

To build your plan, you need to select each district, one by one, on the map. You might find yourself rapidly switching between districts as you redraw boundaries, so always be sure you know which district you are currently working on!

There are a few different ways to do this, depending on your needs.

Choosing which district to edit

Staying in the Create ribbon, click on the District drop down menu and select a district to work on (any district can be chosen in the district drop-down menu at any time).

dropdown of districts

Instead of using the drop-down menu to choose a district, you can also click a district’s name in the District Window at the bottom of the screen. You will know you have selected a district to work on when this row is highlighted in grey.

highlighted district

Adding geography to your district

Now that you’ve selected a district to work on, you’re ready to add geographic regions to it.

Selecting by census block

Underneath the district drop down menu are your selection tools. Start by clicking on the first tool.

geography selection tool

Zoom into the map so you can see the individual census block boundaries.

Pane over to a district you’re not working on and click on one of these blocks. This adds that geography to your district. The  block changes color on the map, and it changes the numbers in District window.

example of a selected census block


Note: No examples in any of these training documents are intended as any official district proposals, intentions for such proposals, or as suggestions. They are intended exclusively as visual guides for you to help learn the software.

Selecting by rectangle

Now let’s try the next selection tool, which looks like a square with a tiny arrow on it.

rectangle tool button

Click on the map, but don’t let go of the mouse button. Drag the mouse around the map to draw a rectangle. Any geography your rectangle touches will be added to your district, so your final shape may have irregular borders.

before and after using the rectangle tool


Custom polygon

The third selection tool allows you to draw a custom polygon to select geographies. Choose the third selection option.

polygon tool

Click on the map. Move the mouse to another part of the map and click again. Do this again and click a third time. Now, move the mouse to another part of the map and double click. This ‘closes’ the polygon and adds the geographies it touches to your district.

polygon tool before and after selecting on the map

Just like in the rectangle tool, your final borders will look a little different than the shape you just drew. If you’re selecting blocks you don’t want by mistake, try zooming in more on the map before using the select tool.

Selecting by line

Click the next selection tool, the line tool. This is another way to select multiple blocks.

polyline button

Click on the map. Now move to another part of the map and click again. Move to a third point on the map and double click. Any geographies along the line you drew will be added to your district.

before and after using the line tool

What if I make a mistake?

It’s OK! There are undo and redo buttons under the district drop-down menu.

the undo button in the ribbon

In the district drop-down menu, you can also choose Unassigned. Use the selection tools we explored above to ‘assign’ geographies to the Unassigned category. Just remember that you’ll eventually have to assign these blocks to a district before you submit your plan.

Building Your Plan: Other Useful Tools

Changing district colors

In the District window, you can change the colors each district will be on your map. In the “Color” column, click on one of the colored boxes.

default colors for district layers


In the Select Color window that opens, choose the color you want to use, then press OK. That district will now show up on your map in the color you chose. Clicking Cancel will cancel your change and keep the color as is.

the color picker



As you go back and forth between districts, you might find it useful to lock one to avoid any accidental changes.

As an example, in the District window, click District 1’s lock button.

selecting district 1

This locks District 1 and puts a cross-hatch pattern over it on the map:

example of a locked district

In the District drop-down menu, choose District 2 so you can add geographies to it. Now use the rectangle selection tool to select an area that District 1-- Because District 1 is locked, blocks from it don’t get added to District 2.

Districts can be locked and unlocked any time in the District window. This ability helps if you are satisfied with a district assignment in one area but still need to adjust adjacent areas.

Hiding districts

Districts can be hidden from view. In the District window, click the District 1 hide button. District 1 turns off on the map. Any district can be hidden or unhidden by clicking its hide box in the District window.

example of a hidden district

11. Understanding the Data

What’s in the District Window?

The District window at the bottom of your screen shows you the Census data for your plan, with the numbers automatically updating as you draw your districts. Each district has its own line in this table.

list of districts


Each column in the table is called a field. At the top of the column is the field name. In the current version of the software, these names are not very intuitive; hover over a field name to get a tooltip.

In the Create ribbon, click the Demographics button.

demographics button in the ribbon

The Demographics window appears.

demographics window show several rows of options to select from

Click on the arrows next to the Universe and Standard lines. You will notice additional selections drop down.

expanded list of demographic options to select

The fields in the District window are listed here. The left column shows the field names.

The check boxes signify if the fields are visible in the District window. For example, consider the TOTALHISP field, which refers to the Hispanic population. If its “Sum” box is checked, the District window will keep track of how many Hispanic individuals are in the districts you’ve drawn. If its “Percent” box is checked, the District window will track what percentage of your districts’ populations are Hispanic.

The Ideal column shows the “ideal” number each district should have (this is just the total city count divided by the number of districts).

The right column shows the description, telling you what the field is. Any of these fields can be turned off or on at any time you choose.

ESRI’s documentation includes more information about these data points here: demographic-variables.htm

The Census Bureau includes a brief overview of how it defines race here:

12. Reviewing Your Plan

The redistricting software includes tools that let you summarize your plans and verify they meet some of the redistricting criteria.


More information coming soon.

Integrity Tests

A major tool to help ensure your plan meets redistricting criteria is the Check Integrity tool, found in the Review tab. Click on that now:

test button in the ribbon


The Integrity Tests window appears and begins running checks on your plan. It may take a moment for the software to complete the process:

tests in progress


Seven tests are performed:

  1. Dual Assignment Check ensures geographies are not assigned to multiple districts at once.
  2. Population Summary Check ensures the population of your districts correctly add up to the city total.
  3. District Count Check ensures all districts have at least one geography assigned to them.
  4. Maximum Deviation Check ensures all districts’ populations are balanced.
  5. Overall Range Check ensures all districts' populations are within the allowable target population range.
  6. Null Assignment Check ensures all geographies are assigned to a district.
  7. Connectivity Check ensures all parts of a district are connected to all other parts of the district.

When the tests are complete, the window should look something like this:

tests with one failure

Tests that pass will have a green check mark next to them. Failed tests will have a red X. If a test fails, you have the option to correct the errors. In this example, the Maximum Deviation Check failed. Clicking on the Details button brings up this window:

example of districts failing maximum deviation

The deviation refers to the difference between the population of a district and the population it is supposed to have. Districts must have 10% or less deviance, and in this example the districts have very large deviances, causing the deviation test to fail. Adjusting the district lines so they have equal populations will correct this.

Keep in mind: All integrity tests must pass if you want to submit your plan as an option for the RAB to consider.


Coming soon.

Adding Map Notes

Coming soon.

13. Sharing Your Plan

Sharing your plan and submitting your plan are different things.

Sharing a plan, described in this section, allows you to attach notes, comments and other information to your map. You will also learn how to download a copy of your plan so you can email it to others.

Submitting a plan, a separate process described in the next section, officially submits the plan to the RAB for consideration.

Attaching Files and Documentation

Coming soon.

Emailing a Copy of Your Plan

Coming soon.

14. Submitting Your Plan

Important Notes About Submitting Plans

You can submit your plans to the RAB for consideration. Your plans must be submitted by Monday, May 2, 2022 at 5 p.m. EST in order to be considered.

We strongly recommend you use the attachments function to include an explanation of your plan and any supporting documents with your submissions (described in the Attaching Files and Documentation part of the Sharing Your Plan section of this document).

Submitting Your Plan

Once you have completed your plan and included any notes or attachments you wish to add to your plan, you can submit it for consideration by the redistricting committees.

Click on the Submit ribbon. The only option here is the Submit Plan button:

submit button on the ribbon


The integrity tests will run automatically:

popup showing tests running

If any tests fail, you will need to correct the issue before the application lets you submit your plan:

popup showing the fourth test has failed


If necessary, close the window and correct any issues. Once you have completed your corrections, click the Submit Plan button again. The integrity tests will re-run. If they all pass, click the OK button:

example of all passing tests

The Submit Plan window appears. Fill in the required information, and then click the Submit Plan button:

popup that collects plan and contact info

The Confirm Plan Submission window appears. If you are ready to submit your plan, click the OK button:

confirmation popup


The Notice window appears to let you know the plan was submitted (an e-mail will also be sent to the e-mail address you provided in the Submit Plan window):

successful plan submission


Keep in mind: Submitted plans become part of the public record.

Congratulations, you have successfully submitted your plan!


15. What's Next?

Present your map at a public meeting

All submitted maps that meet the minimum legal requirements for review will be provided to the members of the RAB. At upcoming board meetings, the RAB will consider those maps that are presented to the RAB at a public meeting by a member of the public or submitted maps that are otherwise brought before the RAB by an RAB member.

You are invited to present your map at one of these meetings. Presentations must be 10 minutes or less. We will have your map pre-loaded on the meeting room monitor for everyone to see.

Keep in mind: You must submit your map and schedule a time to present at least 3 business days before a meeting. 

Schedule an Appointment to Present a Map

Optionally, attend a public meeting and give your public comments

If you don't want to present your map, you are still welcome to attend a board meeting to give your public comments. Public comments happen at the end of each meeting and you will have three minutes to speak before the board.

See Calendar of Public Meetings